The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) sets the standards for employee wages, hours, and overtime pay. Under FLSA, employers are required to pay their employees a minimum wage and overtime wages when an employee works more than 40 hours in one week.
What Employees Are Covered by the Fair Labor Standards Acts?
The Fair Labor Standards Act applies to all employees of “enterprises” as defined by the FLSA that are involved in commercial activity between states; producing commercial goods; or handling, selling, or working on commercial goods. If a worker is an employee of an enterprise that falls under the jurisdiction of the FLSA, they may be covered by the FLSA, regardless of the type of duties they perform. Enterprises under FLSA include:
- Federal, state, or local government agencies
- Hospitals or institutions engaged in the care of the sick, elderly, or mentally ill
- Pre-schools, elementary or secondary schools, higher learning institutions, or schools for handicapped or gifted children
- Companies with annual sales or receipts of $500,000 or more
Employees of companies not considered enterprises by the Fair Labor Standards Act might still be covered by FLSA depending on the type of work they are engaged in. If the employee is individually performing work involving commercial activity between states; the production of commercial goods; or handling, selling, or working on commercial goods, the FLSA may still apply to them. Some common examples of these employees are:
- Employees in the communications and transportation industries
- Employees who regularly use mail, telephone, or electronic forms of communication for interstate communication
- Employees who handle, ship, or receive commercial goods
- Employees who regularly travel between states for work
- Domestic service workers, including day workers, housekeepers, chauffeurs, cooks, babysitters, subject to certain wage and hour requirements
Generally, under federal minimum wage requirements, an employer must pay an employee at least $7.25 an hour for every hour the employee works. There are a few exceptions to this rule:
- Employees receiving tips, who can be paid as little as $2.13 per hour in direct wages so long as the combination of wages and tips adds up to the standard minimum wage.
- Student learners at vocational, trade or technical schools
- Full-time students in retail or service establishments, agriculture, or institutions of higher education
- Individuals whose earning or productive capacities for the work to be performed are impaired by physical or mental disabilities, including those related to age or injury
In addition, each state has the option of raising the minimum wage above $7.25. For example, California has a minimum wage of $9.00.
How Overtime Is Paid
Under the Fair Labor Standards Act, an employer is required to pay an employee 1.5 times their hourly wage for every hour the employee works over 40 hours in one week. An example of this would be if an employee is normally paid $10 an hour, that employee will be paid $10 multiplied by 1.5, or $15 an hour for the hours the employee works over 40 in one week.
Sometimes, employers will try to change the days an employee works in a week to try to avoid paying overtime to that employee. This is prohibited under the Fair Labor Standards Act.
Types of Employment with Special Overtime Pay Requirements
The overtime pay laws of the Fair Labor Standards Act do not apply to every employee in enterprises that are subjected to the FLSA. Employees who are exempted from overtime pay include:
- Executives or "White Collar" Employees - Employees on a salary of at least $455 per week ($23,660 annually) who fall within specific categories are not required to receive overtime pay if the salary includes some allowance for overtime. "White Collar" jobs include executives, administrators, professionals, computer employees, outside salespersons, and highly compensated employees.
- Government Workers - Firefighters, police officers, and other safety or emergency workers have specific rules for overtime pay because their workweeks are often more than 40 hours.
Do I Need an Employment Lawyer?
An employment lawyer can help you determine whether you are an employee entitled to overtime pay or a minimum wage under the Fair Labor Standards Act. A lawyer can also assist you with a claim if you believe your employer has not paid you the minimum wage, for hours worked above 40 in one week, and for any dispute regarding pay. If you are an employer, a lawyer will make sure you are in compliance with state and federal employment laws.