Wage and Hour Laws Protect Worker's Rights

The United States protects a worker's right in regards to the number of hours they work and much they should be paid. The laws are called, wage and hour laws, and set the minimum amount you are paid per hour. The minimum wage amount varies from state to state, and many states also provide a rule on how many hours you can be expected to work per day.

Other provisions provided by the government include different minimum amounts you must be paid for overtime pay, weekend pay, and holiday pay. There are general rules applied to the wage and hours laws you should be aware of to ensure you are receiving a fair wage.

If you, or someone you know, is working under conditions that do not meet the minimum amounts set by your state, contact an attorney. You deserve to receive the pay you have earned.

Your Wages

There are laws in place to protect the minimum amount of wages you can be paid. These same laws identify specific types of jobs that are entitled to receive overtime wages if you work long hours. Not all employers comply with these laws, some unintentionally, and if not corrected can face civil money penalties.

Some of the violations committed by employers regarding employment wages include:

  • Taking too much from wages in lieu of tips
  • Paying less than the State-set minimum wage
  • Paying a 'training wage to workers who should receive more
  • Requiring employees to 'work-off-the-clock' without pay
  • Taking money from wages paid in goods, such as meals for food
  • Not paying extra, or 'overtime' wages for extra hours worked

The laws have been put in place to protect you as an employee. The laws are to ensure employers treat all employees fair in terms of wages for work completed.

Am I Guaranteed to be Paid at Least Minimum Wage?

States each have their guidelines regarding minimum wage and overtime pay. It is essential for you to understand different job types and certain industries are required by Federal law to establish a baseline for minimum wage amounts. These jobs and industries are covered by the Federal Wage Law (FLSA) and must pay employees at least the Federal Minimum Wage amount per hour of employment.

If your state has a lower minimum wage set than the Federal Wage Law, your employer is required to pay the higher amount set by FLSA. Most states have set their minimum wage to match the Federal wage; some such as D.C. have set theirs higher.

As of January 1st. 2018, California set their minimum wage at $11.00 per hour. It is also required overtime pay be paid at a rate of time-and-half for more than eight hours of employment performed in one day, or more than forty hours of employment performed in a week. If you work more than twelve hours in a day, California law requires you to be paid double pay. You can find more specific information on California wage laws at the California Department of Industrial Relations. 

Your Benefits

A benefit is a word that covers a broad range of work-related advantages. Benefits are anything an employee receives from their employer other than cash wages. Some of the benefits, such as Family and Medical Leave are required under State or Federal laws. An employer generally doesn't lose money by offering employees benefits. The only cost to them for granting benefits would be the cost of their employee’s time away from the job.

If your job has law-mandated leave requirements, your employer must allow you to use those benefits. There are some benefits listed as optional and can be negotiated with your employer whether or not they will recognize them as part of your job compensation. Those such as family and medical leave are not optional, and you must be allowed to use them.

These are some of the optional benefits employers can offer as part of your employment package:

  • Disability
  • Dental insurance
  • Employee pension
  • Medical coverage
  • Life insurance

If you are offered these optional benefits from your place of work, your employer will have to follow specific federal regulations which can become quite technical and complex. The Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 governs how health benefits and pension plans are regulated. If you are offered one of these plans, it is required that you be given notice of the term of the employee benefit plan. Your employer is required by law to tell you:

  • Who is eligible
  • What the plan is
  • What benefits are received under the plan
  • How much, if any, you will be responsible for paying
  • If you are required to make payments, what the amounts of those payments will be
  • When and how changes to the plan will be made

If your employer has offered specific benefits and is not coming through with them, contact an attorney to ensure you receive fair compensation.

Are You Entitled to Overtime Wages?

Two sets of laws apply to the enforcement of overtime wages. The first set of laws covers employers under the FLSA (Fair Labor Standards Act), they are required to guarantee you time and a half for wages on hours worked over the set weekly hours. The second set of laws vary from state to state, so you should check with your state to understand their policy on overtime wages.

There are many circumstances covered under either the Fair Labor Standards Act or your state's law, so it likely your employer is required to comply with at least one of them. If you are working extra hours during your work week without compensation of overtime wages, consult with your attorney to see if our employer is not following the law.

The Fair Labor Standards Act generally covers employees considered 'nonexempt'. The FLSA protects a nonexempt employee, and it is required of the employer that they pay you an overtime wage. There is a three-part test to satisfy in order to be considered nonexempt:

  1. Salary level test- If you are an employee paid less than $23,600 a year
  2. Salary basis test- The FLSA covers non-salaried employees. If your employer guarantees you a minimum amount of wages, you are likely considered to be a salaried employee
  3. Duties test- The Fair Labor Standards Act excludes those in management positions. If your title puts you in the classification of management duties, then the FLSA rules do not apply to your overtime benefits

If the results of the three-part test show that you earn less than $23,600 a year, you are not part of management and are not considered a 'salaried' employee; the FLSA rules likely cover you. If you are not properly compensated for the hours you work, contact your attorney for help in receiving the wages you deserve.

Some job descriptions that are not entitled to overtime wages include:

  • Newspaper delivery persons
  • Independent contractors
  • Computer technicians who earn $27 an hour or more
  • Volunteers
  • Small farm employees
  • Salespeople who work away from a business
  • Amusement park employees
  • Babysitters or personal companions (excluding those who provide domestic work or nursing care)

Do Tips Affect the Amount of Minimum Wage Paid?

Employers typically have to pay the minimum wage to all employees covered by federal and state wage and hour laws. This amount of wage is either the minimum amount set by the federal government or the state's whichever is higher.

Jobs that include receiving tips make the laws a bit more complicated. For example, if you earn more than $30 each month in tips, your employer only needs to pay you a minimum wage of $2.13 an hour under Federal law. This rule only applies if your total amount, including wages and tips, equals the minimum wage for each hour of work performed.

California law does not allow employers to reduce wages based on tips earned. They require minimum wages be paid by an employer regardless of tips earned. The Department of Labor lists the different states and their regulations regarding tips and wages.  Check with your attorney if you feel you are unfairly paid due to the tips received in your job.

Am I Guaranteed Paid Maternity Leave?

The FMLA (Family and Medical Leave Act) covers employees by requiring employers provide up to twelve workweeks of unpaid leave for one of the following reasons:

  • Adoption of a son or daughter by an employee or placement of a foster child
  • Having to care for an immediate family member with a serious health condition, such as a parent, child, or spouse
  • The birth and care of a newborn baby
  • If you have suffered from a serious health condition and are medically unable to perform your job

You are eligible for this benefit under the Family and Medical Leave Act if you:

  • Work for an employer covered under the Act
  • Work 1,250 hours during the past twelve months before the date you are requesting the leave to start
  • Work in a location that employs more than fifty people or has another location within seventy-five miles with additional employees
  • Have worked one year with the employer. The year does not have to be twelve consecutive months

Many states have similar laws in place in addition to the FMLA laws which allow employees to take time off after the birth of a child. The Department of Labor has more information regarding unpaid time off for having a baby.

If Deployed by the National Guard will I Lose My Job?

The USERRA (Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act) protects your rights when you return from a period of service in the uniformed services. This protection includes the National Guard, and your employer cannot discriminate against your military service or obligation.

When you return from deployment, you are guaranteed the right to return to your job. This reinstatement includes, you are entitled the same seniority, wage, along with all benefits of rights attached to the position.

Employers do not have to allow spouses time off from their jobs if there husband or wife are deployed in the National Guard. It is not a legal requirement, however; it is common for many businesses to allow this form of leave. Check with your company's management and find out how they will handle the situation.

Should I Receive Paid Breaks?

It is not required under Federal Law to provide paid breaks by employers. When employers do provide short breaks of five to twenty minutes, they are able to consider the time in the sum of hours worked during the week under Federal guidelines. This break time added to the total hours would be considered in determining if overtime wages are due. Certain states have their guidelines and regulate break times so you should check your state's laws if you feel you are not being given proper break times.

Am I Entitled Time Off for Personal Reasons

Certain states allow employees to receive time off from work for personal health reasons. Situations can include:

  • Domestic violence issues
  • Receive counseling services
  • Receive medical attention
  • Purchase a new house

Different states have different laws, so you need to check your specific state's rules for these circumstances.

Am I Entitled to Take Time Off from Work to Vote?

If you are unable to make the polls during their open time, then typically an employer will allow you a short time off to cast your vote. There are many states which have put this time off as a requirement so employers can allow their employees to vote, but you may be required to give your boss notice that you will need the time.

How Often Should I Receive a Paycheck?

Nearly every state has put into place a minimum frequency for paying their employees. Depending on the state you live in, you may be entitled to receive a paycheck twice a month or every other week. There are states that request employees be paid weekly or monthly.

California law requires paychecks be delivered on a semi-monthly basis. Payday requirements can become complicated as they vary from state to state. Check with your state to understand whether or not your employer is following the law. If you are not receiving a paycheck in a timely manner, contact your attorney to protect this right.

Understanding the Fair Labor Standards Act

There are specific federal employment regulations set up to protect employees and ensure they receive fair wages. These regulations cover child labor standards, minimum wage, overtime pay, and were established by the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).

Under the U.S. Department of Labor, is the Wage and Hour Division responsible for administering the law which determines if the payment of back wages is due. Through this division, you are able to file a lawsuit to receive back pay under FLSA violations. If you feel you are entitled to back pay from your employer, check with an attorney on how to file this claim.

These are some of the areas the Fair Labor Standards Act cover:

  • Basic Wages
    • Overtime wages should be paid at least one and one-half times your regular hourly pay. For nonexempt employees who earn more than $10 an hour have to be paid at least $15 for each hour over the set 40-hour work week. California requires nonexempt employees receive time and one-half for any hours they work over eight in one day. They also require double pay for more than twelve hours worked in one day.
  • Child Employment
  • Children must be sixteen-years-of-age to work in non-farm employment. Children must be eighteen-years-of-age to be employed by 'hazardous' industries such as mining activities, or driving a motor vehicle. The laws of FLSA do not apply to children in the acting profession, those delivering newspapers, or those who make wreaths in their home. The Department of Labor has fewer restrictions on the hiring of minors for farm labor.
  • Nonexempt vs. Exempt Employees
  • According to the FLSA, you are an exempt employee when overtime provisions and minimum wage requirements do not apply to your employment. An exempt employee is typically a seasonal worker or someone who earns a specific amount in a year.

The laws for fair wages vary from state to state, but many are protected under Federal guidelines. If you or someone you know is not receiving a fair wage for a job, contact your attorney to see if you are eligible to file a claim to receive the pay you deserve.

How Do I Recover Back Pay?

The Fair Labor Standards Act created the Wage and Hour Division to investigate complaints regarding violations for fair pay. Employers who are ignoring the law and refusing to compensate their workers with fair pay will face civil liability. An example of this would be an employer ignoring the Child Labor Law. This offender could be fined up to $1,000 for each child that was subject to the violation.

If you are able to prove your employer violated the law, you could recover unpaid minimum wages as well as overtime pay. Contact your attorney to file a suit against your employer and possibly ask for an injunction to prevent your employer from continuing this practice. The FLSA gives you a baseline of protection for you as an employee including reasonable working hours and fair wages. It is your right to receive fair pay when you perform your job.

Your Rights as an Employee

You have rights as an employee, and there are employment laws in place to protect you. There is a multitude of jobs in many sectors of the business world making employment relationships complex. These are some of the areas you are protected from:

  • Wrongful termination
  • Wages and taxation
  • Discrimination
  • Workplace safety

These areas and others are governed by federal and state laws. As an employee, you have basic rights in your workplace. These rights include fair compensation, freedom from discrimination, and privacy. Even before you are hired, you have rights which include being free from discrimination regarding your sex, gender, age, national origin, race, or religion during the hiring process.

Your rights to privacy in the workplace include your personal possessions such as your purse, briefcase, private mail, or storage locker. You also have the right to privacy with your phone calls or voicemail messages. These rights are limited regarding e-mail messages and use of the Internet while you are using the company computer system.

You have the right to accept or decline a prospective employer requesting to perform a background or credit check on your records as part of the hiring process. Other rights protected include:

  • The right to work in a safe environment which is free from toxic substances, dangerous conditions, and other safety hazards
  • The right to fair pay for work you complete
  • The right to file a claim or complaint against your employer if you suspect illegal or unethical activities without fear of retaliation
  • The right to work free from discrimination or harassment of any form

If any of your rights as an employee have been violated, contact your attorney to see what action is available to resolve these issues. It is your right to fair treatment and fair wages.

Is there a Fair Wage Attorney Near Me Who Can Help Me Retrieve Unpaid Wages?

If you or someone you know needs legal advice regarding fair wages, fair working conditions, and retaining wages that have been withheld call Stop Unpaid Wages 424-781-8411 to speak with an attorney who can help. You can call us to discuss your options and ensure you receive the pay you deserve. Check their website to learn about the services available if you need legal justice in the workplace or fill out our contact form and one of our knowledgeable attorneys will reach out to you.