Fair Labor Standards
Federal and state laws protect workers like you against your employer taking unfair advantage of you. This includes both in the amount that you are paid and how much or how often you work. The federal law that helps protect your rights as a worker is the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). It deals with the minimum wage, overtime pay, employer record keeping requirements, and child labor standards.
The U.S. Office of Personnel Management enforces the FLSA. That means that if the FLSA is violated, your employer can get in trouble with the federal government. As a result, the employer could face serious penalties and sanctions.
Not all employees are covered under the FLSA because an employer must have an effect on interstate commerce to be covered. However, courts have broadly interpreted this requirement, so most employers must meet the restrictions and standards as laid out in the FLSA.
Minimum Wage Under the Fair Labor Standards Act
The FLSA sets the minimum wage at $7.25 per hour as of 2016. However, the minimum wage will vary depending on your state. It is $7.25 per hour in Indiana and in Tennessee, but the minimum wage in Kentucky is $8.20 per hour.
Employers are not required to pay you by the hour, but if they do, they should pay you at least the state minimum wage. They can also choose to pay you through another method, such as by the project, on commission, or per piece. If they choose to pay you through another method, your rate should still be at least equivalent the hourly rate. For example, if your employer pays you $3 for each widget you make, you must be able to make roughly two and one half widgets every hour to meet the equivalent minimum hourly wage of $7.25.
Employers are also required to pay you in cash or something that can be converted into cash quickly (like a check). They are not permitted to pay you in some other way, such as products, food, or housing. That also means that employee discounts do not count toward the minimum wage that your employer is required to pay you under the FLSA. Earning comp time, where you earn vacation time in place of cash payments, is also illegal under federal labor laws.
FLSA and Wage Theft
Wage theft is the most common violation of the FLSA. Wage theft occurs when your employer does not pay you the amount of your wages that you have earned. One of the most common ways that employers do this is by asking you to do small unpaid tasks, such as asking you to take out the trash after you have already clocked out. Your employer is taking advantage of you if he or she does this, and these little tasks can add up.
Another form of wage theft is a failure to pay for earned overtime. In most hourly jobs, your employer must pay you overtime if you work over 40 hours per week. There are a few exceptions to this rule, but this generalization covers most employees. If your employer does not pay you overtime when you work 40 hours per week, you may have a legal claim under the FSLA.
Keep in mind that your employer cannot “average” your hours to avoid paying you overtime. For example, if you worked 35 hours last week, and 45 hours this week, your employer cannot average the two weeks to avoid paying you overtime. Instead, you have earned five hours of overtime, and your employer should pay you for that time.
Wage theft most often occurs in the following industries, but it can occur in virtually any type of job.
- Janitorial services
- Restaurant work
- Long-term care
- Home health care
- Garment manufacturing
Child Labor Restrictions
The FLSA also provides restrictions for child workers. For example, children under the age of 18 are generally not permitted to work in hazardous jobs. Certain jobs are always considered hazardous according to the federal government. These may include jobs like demolition, mining, or roofing, just to name a few.
To encourage school attendance, workers between the ages of 14 and 16 also have restrictions regarding the number of hours that they can work, even in a non-hazardous job. Teens between 14 and 16 cannot work more than three hours on a school day and cannot work more than 18 hours during a school week. They also cannot work more than 8 hours on a non-school day and more than 40 hours during a non-school week. They also cannot work past 9 p.m. regardless of whether it is a school night or not. There may be additional restrictions as well.
Violations of the FLSA cost hard-working employees millions of dollars every year. Do not let a wage violation cost you your hard-earned money. You deserve every cent that you have earned, and the employment law attorneys at Hughes & Coleman can help you fight for your wages. Call 800-800-4600 for more information.