A commonly-raised question in employment law is how to describe the difference between part-time and full-time employment. In general, full-time employment is defined as having a standard 40-hour work week. This is your typical Monday to Friday, 40-hour, customary definition of a routine work week.
On the other hand, part-time employment is usually defined by most states as any work week that is less than 40 hours of work per week.
Some states, however, have set the maximum amount of hours at as low as 30-hours per week, but this number may vary and is contingent on the labor laws of each state.
While the number of hours is primarily what separates the two forms of employment from each other, there are also several other factors. These include benefits and whether the employee is salaried or paid hourly. The former refers to how full-time employees are paid, and the latter to part-time employees.
As noted above, part-time employees do not have the same rights as full-time employees. Full-time employees are normally entitled to receive benefits, such as medical insurance, dental and vision insurance, paid vacation days, career advancement opportunities, and retirement plans.
In contrast, part-time employees do not usually have access to these types of benefits. However, this will largely depend on whether or not an arrangement was made between the employer and the part-time employee. Since state laws do not prohibit employers from extending those benefits to part-time workers, it is really up to the parties to create such an agreement.
For example, a part-time worker and their employer may work together to negotiate an agreement that provides certain rights and benefits to the employee within their employment contract. In fact, rights and benefits are some of the main points that are discussed during the formation of any employment contract.
One major right that both types of employees share is that their employers must follow the legal requirements of a federal employment law known as the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”). Therefore, regardless of the status of an employee, an employer must continue to do the following:
- Pay employees at least minimum wage;
- Adhere to child labor provisions; and
- Maintain various records of hours, wages, and other items that are ordinarily kept for business records.
Although another major requirement of the FLSA states that employers must pay overtime to employees who have worked over 40 hours in a work week, this condition becomes complicated when it applies to part-time employees. This is because there are some instances where part-time employees are considered to be exempt.
One of the main issues that arises in this area of employment law are matters concerning overtime payments. Most states only require employers to pay their employees overtime wages if they are considered full-time employees and have worked more than 40 hours per week. Therefore, part-time employees who work less than 40 hours a week may not be entitled to overtime pay.
Part-time employees are generally classified as “exempt” employees, meaning that they are exempt from the overtime pay requirements of the FLSA. However, there are some employees that work less than 40 hours a week and can still qualify for overtime pay. This however will depend on the type of work that they perform and involves interpreting state employment laws, which can become quite complicated.
Another legal issue that usually occurs under employment law actions concerns wage and hour claims. Some part-time employees may complain about the way that their wages or hours are being calculated. These types of disputes can lead to a wage and hour lawsuit, which is one of the top reasons why most employees file an employment lawsuit.
Finally, both kinds of employees have legal protections against discrimination in the workplace. Specifically, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (“Title VII”), prohibits employers from discriminating against their employees based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin, regardless of their employment status.
Employment disputes can be resolved in three primary ways: using the assistance of a company’s human resources department, by requesting the help of a government agency, or by filing a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”).
All of these procedures, however, may require the services of a lawyer, especially if it involves issues, such as wrongful termination or lost wages.
If you think you have a claim or if you need to file a lawsuit, you should consider hiring an employment attorney to help. A qualified employment attorney can guide you through the filing process, inform you of your rights as an employee, and represent you in court, should it be necessary.