A commonly-raised question in employment law is how to define the difference between part-time and full-time employment. Generally, most people consider full-time employment to be defined as a standard 40-hour work week with a routine Monday to Friday, nine-to-five schedule.

On the other hand, in most states, part-time employment is defined as employment in which the employee works less than 40 hours per week. Full-time workers who work in excess of 40 hours per week are entitled to overtime pay under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”). Overtime pay must be at least one and a half times the worker’s regular hourly pay.

A few states, such as California, have a daily maximum standard for overtime pay. In these states, an employee is entitled to overtime after working more than a certain number of hours a day, usually 8 hours. If a part-time employee works three 10-hour days within one week in California, the employee would earn 6 hours of overtime under California law, 2 for each of the three days when the employee worked 10 hours. The employee would not be entitled to overtime under federal law.

Some states also have set the maximum number of hours that an employee can work and still qualify as part-time as low as 30-hours per week. This would mean that any worker who works more than 30 hours per week is not part-time, but full-time. This number varies and depends on the labor laws of each state.

While the number of hours is primarily what separates the two types of employment, several other factors are also taken into account. These other factors include whether the employee receives benefits and is salaried or paid hourly. In many industries, a full-time employee is salaried and a part-time employee is paid hourly, but this might not always be the case.

Do Part-Time Employees Have the Same Rights as Full-Time Employees?

As noted above, part-time employees usually do not have the same terms and conditions of employment as full-time workers in areas other than the number of hours worked per week. In most workplaces, full-time employees receive various benefits, such as medical insurance, dental and vision insurance, paid vacation days, career advancement opportunities, and retirement plans.

Part-time employees, on the other hand, do not usually have access to these types of benefits. However, this largely depends on whether or not an arrangement is made between the employer and the part-time employee. Neither state laws nor federal law prohibits employers
from extending those benefits to part-time workers, it is really up to the parties to provide for it, and it can be done.

For example, a part-time worker and their employer may negotiate an agreement that provides certain rights and benefits to the employee in their employment contract. In fact, rights and benefits are the main points that are up for discussion when the parties discuss the formation of any employment contract.

One major right that all employees share is to have their employers follow the legal requirements of the main federal employment law, the FLSA. Therefore, regardless of the status of an employee as full- or part-time, an employer must continue to do the following:

  • Pay employees the minimum wage at least;
  • Adhere to child labor standards; and
  • Maintain various records of hours, wages, and other data that are ordinarily maintained in 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 exempt.

What Are Some Types of Full-Time and Part-Time Employment Disputes?

One of the main issues that arises in this area of employment law are matters concerning overtime pay. Most states require employers to pay their employees overtime wages only if they are considered full-time, non-exempt employees who have worked more than 40 hours per week. Therefore, part-time employees who work fewer than 40 hours a week are generally not entitled to overtime pay.

Part-time employees are classified as “exempt” employees, meaning that they are exempt from the overtime pay requirements of the FLSA. However, there are some employees who work less than 40 hours a week and can still qualify for overtime pay. This, however, depends on the type of work that they perform and what their state employment laws say about the right to overtime.

Still, a part-time employee is entitled to overtime pay if they work more than 40 hours in one week — or, in some states, more than eight hours in a day. This assumes that they are doing the kind of work that qualifies for overtime and is not “exempt”.

However, this means that a part-time employee might be required to work more than the number of hours they usually work, e.g. 25, and not be entitled to overtime pay, because they are still working less than 40 hours a week. Or, in California and other states with hours-per-day overtime rules, they may still not qualify for overtime, if they work less than 8 hours per day.

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. There are a number of other state and federal laws affecting employment, such as whistleblower protection laws, that apply to part-time and full-time employees alike.

Do I Need a Lawyer for Help with Part-Time or Full-Time Employment Disputes?

Employment disputes can be resolved in three primary ways:

All of these procedures, however, may require the services of a lawyer, especially if it involves issues, such as wrongful termination or lost wages. Knowing which law applies to your problem and what state or federal agency may have to be consulted first may require the help of an experienced employment attorney.

A qualified workplace attorney can guide you through the process of filing a claim with a government agency, inform you of your rights as an employee, and represent you in court, should it be necessary.