The term “labor laws” refers to a broad set of laws, rules, and regulations that are in place to govern employment. Mainly, this area of law is meant to provide for and protect the rights of those who are employed. The laws also guide the outcome of labor disputes and help prevent employees from being exploited or abused.
Some of the more common labor disputes include:
- Collective bargaining negotiations with union employees: The negotiations between employers and unions to determine the conditions of employment;
- Discrimination and harassment: This includes harassment based on a protected characteristic, such as age, disability, race, pregnancy, sexual harassment, etc.;
- Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) leave: Federal law requiring that employers covered by the FMLA preserve the health benefits for eligible employees during their leave just as if they were working);
- Wrongful termination: Any firing of an employee that violates federal, state, or local laws; and
- Worker’s compensation: A state mandated insurance program that provides compensation to employees who suffer job related injuries.
Labor laws are also in place to outline the responsibilities and obligations of employers. By adhering to these laws, employers can ensure they are treating their employees fairly and in accordance with the law. This will help them to avoid disputes as well as potential legal consequences. Labor laws vary from state to state, although there are federal labor laws that apply to all states, no matter what their individual laws may be.
It is important to remember that no matter what each state’s labor laws say, all employers are required to adhere to both federal AND state law. There may also be municipal obligations that are applicable to employers. In such cases all employers must comply with these in addition to federal and state laws.
Specifically in Delaware, there are laws that provide greater employee protections than federal law. Examples of this include a higher minimum wage and pregnancy accommodation rights. However, Delaware generally follows federal law in regards to overtime and occupational safety, as an example.
According to Delaware law, full time employment status is defined as “the employment of one individual for at least thirty five hours per week. This does not include absences excused by reason of vacations, illness, holidays, or similar causes.” This means that so long as you are normally scheduled to work thirty five or more hours per week, you will likely be considered a full time employee in the state of Delaware.
Delaware law does not provide a general definition of what makes a part time employee. Most states define a part time worker as one who works less than forty hours per week. However, based on the definition of full time employment in Delaware, part time employment could be considered the employment of one individual for less than thirty five hours per week.
For minors who are aged 14 to 17, part time employment is determined by factors including:
- School hours;
- Amount of time spent at work; and
- Time of the year in which the youth is employed (seasonal, during the school year, etc.).
There are no labor laws in Delaware that specifically govern overtime hours and payment, as Delaware applies the federal overtime laws. The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) defines overtime as any hours logged over forty hours in one work week. After these forty hours, employees are entitled to receive no less than one and one half times their regular pay. Therefore, overtime in Delaware could be defined as any hours logged over forty hours in one work week, and Delaware employees are to receive one and one half times their regular pay.
Currently, minimum wage in Delaware is $8.75 per hour. In 2018, Delaware lawmakers signed into law a piece of legislation that increases the current minimum wage over the proceeding four years. The incremental increase is supposed to occur in four increments of fifty cents each, which would result in a minimum wage of $10.25 in 2021.
In specific circumstances, employers may be allowed to pay workers less than the minimum wage. In order to do so, there must first be a public hearing with the Delaware Department of Labor. The specific circumstances include employees who are disabled, under the age of 18, are learners or apprentices, and workers who receive tips or gratuities.
Employers in Delaware must pay at least fifty percent of the costs associated with health care benefits, if the employee has worked for the employer for a minimum of six months. There are thirty required benefits in Delaware, including but not limited to:
- Emergency care;
- Hearing aid coverage;
- Newborn, infant, and mother coverage;
- Screening of infants and toddlers for developmental delays;
- Reimbursement for midwife services; and
- Child immunizations.
It is important to remember that Delaware employers are not legally required to provide health care coverage to employees who are not employed full time. Thus, part time and seasonal employees may not receive health care coverage and benefits from their employer.
Both federal and state laws prohibit Delaware, as well as all other states, from discriminating against employees belonging to protected classes, such as race, color, sexual orientation, etc. Employees who feel they have faced employment discrimination must first file a claim to the Delaware Department of Labor.
If the charge is dismissed, or the employee and employer do not come to an agreement on the claim, the Delaware Department of Labor will issue a “Right to Sue Notice.” This notice basically ends the administrative process and allows the employee to file a lawsuit against the employer.
Delaware does not require private employers to provide employees with paid or unpaid vacation time. Therefore, if an employer does provide vacation benefits, they must put this agreement in their employee contract, or have a written policy in place that governs these benefits. Additionally, an employer may state that an employee may not receive payment for any paid vacation time left over after the employee resigns from their job, or is terminated.
These laws also apply to holiday leave. A private employee can be required to work on public holidays, and without receiving pay at time and a half. Time and a half would only be required if the hours worked during the holiday were also overtime hours.
Additionally, Delaware does not require employers to provide leave, whether paid or unpaid, for the following:
- Sickness (other than exceptions that apply under the FMLA);
- Bereavement and attending funerals; or
- Jury duty, although employees who are called to serve jury duty are required to do so. They may also seek legal action if their employer prevents, threatens, or fires an employee for fulfilling their jury duties.
Delaware adheres to the FMLA and does not have its own laws regarding family and medical leave. The FMLA provides twelve workweeks of unpaid time off during any twelve month period for various reasons, such as the birth and care of a child, serious health conditions, etc.
As can be seen, there are numerous different labor laws that may apply to many different situations. Thus, a skilled and knowledgeable Delaware labor attorney will be a useful asset if you feel your rights as an employee in Delaware are being violated. An experienced employment attorney can help you understand Delaware’s specific employment laws as they pertain to your case, as well as represent you in court as needed.