Employment Hours and Wage Laws

In the United States, the most relevant law concerning work wages and hours is the Federal Fair Labors Standards Act of 1938, whice is the basis for many of our important US labor laws for employees.  Since its inception in 1938, numerous amendments to the FLSA have kept this federal labor law a relevant and vastly important federal guideline for employment wages and hours.  In the most basic definition, the Federal Fair Labor Standards Act established the following mandates, including:

  • Numerous restrictions on minors in the workplace, known as child labor laws
  • Establishes the nationally recognized forty (40) hour workweek
  • Details the federal minimum wage levels for employees
  • Establishes overtime pay requirements for employees and employers
  • Mandates equal pay for female and male workers of the same skill, job function, responsibility, and relevant background

Employers: Covered by the Act or Exempt?

The FLSA applies to employers who engage in interstate commerce, or whose annual sales tabulate to more than $500,000.  For almost every business that utilizes the U.S. mail as part of their business, they are covered by the Act under the clause “who engage in interstate commerce”.  Additionally, this also makes businesses that use the internet or engage in telephone use as being covered by the Act.  In essence, if your business is not explicitly exempted from the FLSA, you, as an employer, are covered by the Act.

Notable exemptions, though relatively rare, are set forth in the Act as well.  The type of businesses that may prove exempt from the Act includes entities such as small farms or fisheries.  In addition, the Act specifies that some businesses are partially exempt from certain provisions in the Act. 

Employer Record Keeping Requirements and the Fair Labor Standards Act

Per the FLSA, employers must hang an official federal labor law poster outlining the protections and provisions of the Act in their workplace, which can be obtained from the Wage and Hour Division of the Department of Labor.  In addition to displaying this poster for all workers to view, employers are required to maintain certain records on all of their non-exempt employees.  This information, which can be in any format, must go back for at least three years and be open for inspection by officials from Wage and Hour Division at any time.  Some of the basic information required to be maintained by employers includes:

  • Name, SSN, address, gender, occupation, and age, if younger than 19, of all non-exempt employees
  • Employee’s work hour schedule, number of hours worked each day, and total number of hours worked in week
  • Employee’s rate of pay and overall hourly rate of pay
  • Employee’s daily earnings, overtime earnings, deductions, and amount of total wages paid each pay period, which must include date of payment and dates covered 

Employees: Covered by the Fair Labor Standards Act

The Department of Labor does their best to detail what makes a worker exempt or covered by the FLSA.  However, the task is almost impossible to give one concise answer.  There are, however, a number of guidelines to determine what workers are covered by the Act. 

An employee or worker would be considered covered by work labor laws in the Fair Labor Standards Act, if:

  • The worker does not fall under the category of executive exemption, administrative exemption, or professional exemption
  • The worker is an employee, rather than an independent contractor or consultant
  • The worker is not deemed an outside salesperson by the provisions of the Act
  • The worker is not an exempt computer specialist

In reality, many employers will attempt to use the standard of salaried versus non-salaried employees when determining exempt versus non-exempt employees.  This, however, is not accurate, and according to the Act, the term of whether or not an employee is covered by the Act depends on job function more so than pay rate.   

Employees: Exempt from the Fair Labor Standards Act

Vast varieties of specific workers are considered exempt from the protections of the FLSA employment laws.  These workers, however, are determined by the type of work they perform for a company.  Determining individuals cases is difficult, but guidelines in the Act and decisions in court cases over the years have established some of the following workers as exempt from the Fair Labor Standards Act, including:

  • Administrative, executive, or professional workers entailing specific job functions
  • Independent contractors
  • Outside or travel sales persons, not including those salespersons doing sales via mail, telephone, or online
  • Certain specialty occupations, such as computer specialists, seasonal recreation workers, newspaper delivery workers, workers on small farms, and a litany of other miscellaneous niche job capacities
  • Apprentices, which may be in turn covered by individual state employment laws

Keep in mind that this list is by no means comprehensive, and realistically, the only method of resolving disputes over your employment status as exempt or covered will involve consulting an employment lawyer in your state.

Next Page: FLSA Protection


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