Employment Hours and Wage Laws: FLSA Protection

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All employers must pay covered employees no less than the current federal labor laws minimum wage, which is $7.25 per hour effective July 24, 2009, and each state may have their own minimum wage as well.  Regardless of employer policy and how they may set up their pay schedule, such as hourly, fixed rate, salary, commission, or piece rates, a covered employee’s compensation divided by number of hours worked must be more than $7.25 per hour.  Some states, however, have minimum wages laws in place that are higher than the amount mandated by the federal government.  In these instances of the state labor law, employees must receive the federal minimum wage rate, or if the state minimum wage is higher, they must receive the state minimum wage rate. Additionally, tipped employees have a different method of calculating minimum wage rates per the federal government or their state wage labor laws. 

Equal Pay Act of 1963

Under the Equal Pay Act amendment to the FLSA salary labor laws in 1963, workers must receive equal pay for equal work.  The intention of these laws was to mitigate discriminatory pay differences based on gender, race, and as seen today, virtually any other distinguishing characteristic.  All employees contracts covered by the FLSA are guaranteed equal pay for equal work, as well as those employees considered exempt due to executive, administrative, or professional exemption status.  Disparate pay is allowed under the Act in a number of circumstances based on factors including:

  • Merit or achievement based compensation systems
  • Seniority or tenure related pay scales
  • Production quantity or quality based compensation arrangements
  • Any factor other than gender, including different starting salaries, experience levels, or personal negotiations

Overtime Pay Laws per the FLSA

At the federal level, all non-exempt employees working more than forty (40) hours in a seven day, or 168 hour period, must be compensated at a rate of at least one and a half times their regular pay rate for each hour worked over forty (40) hours per week.  Employers cannot manipulate the dates of the seven-day period to suit their fancy, but rather, the FLSA mandates consistency in the seven-day periods, although customarily the workweek begins on Monday.  There are a number of niche jobs exempt from overtime pay laws of the FLSA, which may include your occupation.  In addition, there are partially exempt workers regarding the FLSA overtime labor law.  Finally, overtime pay rates of tipped workers, piece rate employees, and split pay rates vary depending on the circumstances surrounding your employment.  Speaking with an employment labor law lawyer in your state will help you determine the exact status of your current occupation regarding your right to receive overtime pay.

In addition to the FLSA, each state possesses their own overtime laws and regulations for private sector employees.  These mandates may differ from the federal mandates, but cannot compensate covered workers less than the rates prescribed by the FLSA.

Compensatory Time

Comp time, which is the practice of offering employees time off from work in lieu of overtime wages, is illegal in most situations.  According to the FLSA, only federal and state government employees may be offered time off in lieu of compensation.  In order to do this, state and federal employers and employees must have agreed to this possibility beforehand or through the terms of a collective bargaining agreement.

Some states do allow compensatory time in the private sector, albeit with conflicting and complex laws surrounding the situation.  In essence, employees may request comp time ahead of working the overtime hours and accept this time off instead of overtime wages.  Again, the employee must request the comp time arrangement personally, and in no way can employers impose this alternative arrangement on their workers.

Child Labor Laws

Minors under the age of eighteen (18) can be employed under certain conditions and restrictions.  In brief, children cannot work jobs deemed hazardous according to the Secretary of Labor, which includes such positions as logging, roofing, mining, and demolition among others.  Children between the ages of fourteen (14) to sixteen (16) also must follow certain rules if employed in nonhazardous jobs, such as working no more than eighteen (18) hours in a school week and working no more than forty hours in a nonschool week. During the school year, minors’ jobs cannot begin before seven a.m. and go no later than seven p.m.  Some occupations, such as newspaper delivery and some farming occupations have exemptions from these child labor laws, but generally, parents must be involved with the labor or sign a waiver permitting the work.  During the summer months, child labor laws and periods are somewhat relaxed to corroborate with children seeking summer jobs while not in school.

Portal-to-Portal Pay Act

As an amendment to the FLSA, the Portal-to-Portal Act regulates work pay period times, and as such, ensures employees are paid during any time they spend in control of or benefiting their employer.  The laws are complex, but some general outlines relevant to most employees include:

  • Commute time to place of employment is not considered payable work time, unless the commute is done in the capacity of your job, such as traveling to and from offsite job locations
  • Lectures, Training Sessions, and Meetings outside your employer’s premises that are deemed mandatory must be paid for by your employer, including travel time to the event
  • Meal and Break Periods are not required by federal law, however, most states have laws specifically addressing meal, break, and rest periods
  • Waiting Periods as part of a job function are payable work hours according to the FLSA
  • On-Call Period depends on the amount of control an employee has over their own activities during this period when determining whether this time is payable work hours
  • Sleep Time allowed for workers working shifts less than twenty-four (24) hours is deemed payable work time if sleeping is allowed while on duty

Page 3: State and Local Laws


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