Fair Labor Standards Act: What You Need to Know
Employers have some freedom when it comes to how they handle employee issues such as hiring and firing, scheduling and more. However, states and municipalities have imposed regulations on employment conditions, and federal guidelines set the minimum parameters for these. The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) is the name of the law that identifies the federal minimum wage, child labor laws, recordkeeping, overtime laws and others that are relevant to employment.
Wage and Hour Laws
The federal minimum wage for nonexempt employees is $7.25 per hour, and for every hour over 40 that is worked during a workweek, the employer must pay at least $10.875 per hour. States may designate a higher rate, but they cannot set a lower amount.
Employers may pay workers who receive at least $30 in tips each month an hourly rate of $2.13. However, if the tips an employee earns do not equal $5.12 an hour, the employer must make up the difference between what is earned and the $7.25 minimum wage.
Paid leave, such as vacation or sick pay, is not required, and the FLSA also does not mandate pay raises, holiday pay or meal and rest breaks. Unless employees are younger than 16 years of age, there is not a limit to how many hours in a day or a week an employer may require them to work.
Teenagers may be paid an hourly wage of $4.25 during the first 90 days they are employed, after which they must be paid at least $7.25 per hour. Employers cannot take advantage of this law by firing or reducing the hours of employees who are making the minimum wage.
Exempt and Nonexempt Employees
While the FLSA includes many detailed instructions about employment, they do not apply to every employee. Those who are covered by the law cannot be paid less than the minimum wage, and they must also be paid overtime pay when they work more than 40 hours in a work week. There are several rules that define exemptions, though.
Employees who are paid at least $455 per week on a salary basis may be exempt from minimum wage and overtime pay, depending on the type of job they do. For example, exemptions typically include professionals who work in fields requiring a college degree or other advanced training, as well as responsibilities that often require independent thought and decision-making. Office employees who work in certain departments, such as human resources, payroll and accounting or fulfill other administrative job duties, may be exempt. Supervisors who work in management and have a role in overseeing or participating in employment decisions are exempt, as well.
Computer employees who meet the salary requirement and perform certain duties are exempt, and so are outside sales employees, some blue collar workers, firefighters, many in law enforcement and other rescue workers. Some seasonal employees and agricultural workers, caregivers, those who deliver newspapers, and others are also exempt from minimum wage and overtime pay.
Some employees are not exempt from the minimum wage, but their employers do not have to pay them overtime pay. Truck drivers are exempt from overtime pay, and so are taxi drivers, seamen and many other employees who are paid by trip rather than by the hour. Employees who work on commission, live-in domestic employees and some farmworkers are also often exempt.
There is no restriction on young people who are over the age of 17. The only restriction on 16- and 17-year-olds is the type of job. Farm employees of these ages may work at any job, regardless of whether it is hazardous, as long as it is not during school hours. If the teens are not agricultural laborers, they may not perform hazardous jobs, but they are not limited by hours.
A minor who is 14 or 15 may be employed as a farm laborer as long as the duties are not hazardous and it is not during school hours. Those who are in other situations are much more limited. They may not work manufacturing or mining jobs, or in other hazardous situations. They may work up to three hours on school days, and eight hours on a non-school day. During a school week, they are limited to 18 hours, but they may work 40 hours on a non-school week. Except during the summer, they cannot work between the hours of 7 p.m. and 7 a.m.
Minors of any age may work for parents who own a business that is not manufacturing, mining or otherwise hazardous. There is also not an age limit for newspaper delivery jobs, entertainment productions and some other types of employment.
Employers will do well to make sure they adhere to the latest labor regulations. If not, they run the risk of legal troubles.
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