Wage and Hour Laws require fairer treatment by your employer

Wage and Hour Laws

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.

Minimum wage map

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.



9 thoughts on “Wage and Hour Laws require fairer treatment by your employer

  1. Chelsea

    If you are considered a “Sub Contractor” in the state of Tennessee but you get paid through an employer and he doesnt take taxes out of your checks does he still have to pay you overtime by law?

    1. Andy Post author

      According to the Tennessee Labor Law FAQ, the state of Tennessee “has no wage laws concerning overtime, minimum wage, or the regulation of salaried employees.” Thus, your answer may be found in the regulations United States Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division. You can call this department at 1-866-4USWAGE (1-866-487-9243) TTY: 1-877-889-5627, and someone may be able to assist you.

      You might need to find someone familiar with labor law in your state to get a qualified answer. You may be able to get free assistance from a lawyer with the Legal Aid Society of Middle Tennessee & The Cumberlands, the West Tennessee Legal Services, Inc., or another legal aid organization.

      Good luck!

  2. marceline adair

    My boss put in a new time clock. Example: after much confusion & confrontation going over our time vs what the calculated hours on our printed out time sheet we found they entered the store hers & we close at 6pm & we’re still working with customers at 6;15 the clock cuts off at 6pm but says 6;15 on the sheet. So our hers look right on paper but when u add the actual hers the time is missing the 15 mins. Is this legal? It’s deceiving it shows clock in & out time but our hers reflect the preprogrammed. That’s just 1 example. theres many other things cheating us out of actual time worked. Very hurt just wondering if its legal & what should I do.

    1. Andy Post author

      Marceline: This definitely sounds illegitimate, and you’d be best off seeking the advice of a professional in this field. Try contacting your state or federal Department of Labor, or a public service legal aid society local to your area. They may be able to point you towards the right course of action, or refer you to someone else who can.

  3. Justin

    I work in Indiana. Our company demands employees work for months on end with zero time off. Eight hours a day, seven days a week. Only breaks given are national holidays. How is this legal?

    1. Andy Post author

      First, please consider seeking a job with an employer that has more respect for the needs of its employees.

      Looking at the Indiana Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour FAQ, it appears that the state of Indiana does not provide many baseline protections for overworked employees. An employment contract or union negotiations are things that may be used in your favor to limit work hours.

      If you are attached to this job for one reason or another, try contacting one or more of these local resources for advice on the legality of your specific situation, and possible recourse: The Indiana Department of Labor, Indiana Legal Services, and Indiana Pro Bono Commission.

  4. Cinda

    My boss instituted a new way to pay its employees back in 2007. For example, we now get paid on the 15th and 30th of every month. Is this legal? I feel I am being cheated out of money and not getting full pay for the hours I’ve worked because every year there are at least 2 months (Aug & Nov or Dec, I can’t remember which) where 3 pay periods occur. In other words, I should be receiving 3 paychecks for those given months instead of just 2. I feel I should be compenested for those hours worked during that extra week.How do I file a lawsuit to retrieve money (back pay) owed to me? The company us in NJ. Thank you.

    1. Andy Post author

      Hi Cinda: Are you saying that you are not receiving money for two of your pay periods per year? No matter the length of your pay period, you should certainly be getting paid for all hours you have worked since the last paycheck.

      I’m not sure if I entirely understand the situation you’ve described, but if you feel you’ve been cheated, you probably should fully explain your position to a legal consultant trained in the labor laws of your state. Here are some resources that you may find use full: The New Jersey Department of Labor Wage and Hour Division provides access to the full text of New Jersey labor laws, frequently asked questions on wages and work hours, and a facility to file a wage claim with the state. You can also directly contact this department with questions. Legal Services of New Jersey provides pro-bono free legal assistence to New Jerseyans, as does Northeast New Jersey Legal Services, and WomensLaw lists several other legal aid agencies in New Jersey. Good luck getting the help you need!

  5. Pingback: Salary calculator: How much do I make a year?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *