Wage and Hour Laws are a class of labor laws designed to ensure certain rights for workers. These laws intend to prevent employees from being overworked and underpaid.
In 1938, The Fair Labor Standards Act laid much of the groundwork for these employee-protecting laws in the United states. This bill created the Wage and Hour Division within the United States Department of Labor, and established a national minimum wage, extra pay (time-and-a-half) for overtime in many jobs, and restricted the use of child labor.
These federal laws have evolved over time, and most states have established additional Wage and Hour labor laws in addition. These laws are administered, for instance, by the New York Department of Labor and the California Department of Industrial Relations.
Minimum Wage Laws promote a minimum standard of living.
Minimum wages laws require that employers pay their workers at least a certain amount, ideally providing a baseline standard of living. The first US federal minimum wage, in 1938, was 25 cents per hour. The current national minimum wage for non-exempt employees, enacted in 2009, is $7.25 per hour.
States requiring a minimum wage higher than the federal minumum are shown in green, equal to the federal minimum in blue, and lower than the federal minimum in red.
Forty-five of the fifty states have their own minimum wage laws in addition to the federal wage law. Of these, nineteen states (and Washington D.C.) require a minimum wage above the federal minimum of $7.25. These are Alaska, Washington, Oregon, California, Nevada, Montana, Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, Illinois, Michigan, Ohio, Florida, Maine, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut.
Four states have laws enacting minimum wages lower than the federal minimum: Wyoming, Minnesota, Arkansas, and South Carolina, as well as Puerto Rico. Five states have no minimum wage law: Tennessee, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Georgia. The rest of the states have minimum wages laws set at the federal minimum: Hawaii, Idaho, Utah, North Dakota, South Dakota Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, Iowa, Missouri, Wisconsin, Indiana, Kentucky, North Carolina, West Virginia, Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, and New Hampshire, as well as the Virgin Islands and Guam.
Overtime Laws discourage employers from exhausting their employees.
The Fair Labor Standards Act also requires that most workers are eligible for overtime pay. By this standard, employees who work more than 40 hours in a week are paid at one-and-a-half times their typical hourly rate for additional time after 40 hours. Overtime pay standards attempt to discourage employers from over-working their employees, and to fairly compensate laborers who do work long hours.
Whether or not the boss or manage requires the employee to be on the job, all hours in which work is performed for the employer are counted towards overtime. This includes work performed at other locations, as well as work performed in correcting mistakes. Additionally, all hours when a worker is required to be present, even if they have no work to do, count towards overtime.
Child Labor Laws protect young workers.
Another set of laws provides extra protections to minors below the age of 18 who enter the workforce, although these laws do not apply in certain cases, such as younger children who work for their parents and children who work as actors or newspaper-deliverers. Most states have additional child labor laws.
Employee Records keep employers more honest.
The federal act also compels employers to keep detailed records of their workers hours and payments. This requirement attempt promote compliance with all labor standards.
Not all workers are protected equally by Wage and Hour Laws.
Many types of employees are, however, excluded from the protections of the Fair Labor Standards Act, although some of the exempt workers may receive addition protections from state laws.
For example, workers who earn lots of sales commissions may be exempt from overtime pay. Some computer workers, as well as some drivers and mechanics may be not allowed overtime pay rates either. Workers on small farms, and seasonal and recreational workers, are not required either overtime pay or the federal minimum wage. These are just a few of the many exemptions listed by the Federal Labor Standards Act.
There are many nuances to Wage and Hour Laws.
This article attempts to provide an overview of some federal and state Wage and Hour Laws, but does not attempt to be comprehensive or detailed. Please don’t interpret any of this information as legal advice. For the most accurate and applicable information on labor laws, you should consult an appropriate legal reference or talk with a Wage and Hour lawyer.