The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) has been busy of late. There’s been a 77% spike in lawsuits involving wage and hour disputes in recent years. And most of those complaints have been legitimate – the feds have found violations in almost three-quarters of complaints that have been filed.
Employers are routinely getting into trouble with DOL over violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), the law that governs how employees must be paid. Organizations should ensure that supervisors and managers understand employees’ rights under the FLSA so that honest oversights and mistakes don’t cause preventable problems.
Fact is, there are thousands of wage and hour violations every year, either through misfeasance, malfeasance or nonfeasance. So, what exactly does the FLSA require?
Here’s an overview of a few of the things the FLSA covers.
Fair Labor Standards Act
Established in 1938, the FLSA lay outs the groundwork and formulas for how workers in most all U.S. industries must be paid.
As of today, employers are required to do the following under the FLSA:
- Pay non exempt employees at least minimum wage
- Compensate nonexempt staffers for time worked over 40 hours in a work week in overtime pay of at least one and one-half times their rate of pay, and
- Keep thorough payroll records on all nonexempt workers.
That may sound simple enough, but most managers involved with the process, week in and week out, know it can be tricky. Overtime, furloughs, documentation, meal breaks, travel time – all of those and more fall under the sweeping reach of the FLSA.
What’s Not Required Under The FLSA?
While the FLSA requires overtime pay and minimum wage, there are other very common and well-accepted employment practices that are not regulated or required by the FLSA.
For instance, the FLSA does not require:
- vacation, holiday, severance or sick pay
- meal or rest periods
- premium pay for weekend or holiday work, or
- pay raises.
It’s important to recognize that many states require meal or rest breaks. In these instances, state laws that are more strict will supercede the FLSA, meaning the breaks must be offered in those states. (Obviously it would be difficult to compete for and retain talented employees without the sorts of perks people have come to widely expect, such as rest and meal breaks.)
But Every Hour Worked Is The Law
If the FLSA has a single, clear rule that must be followed, it is that employees must be paid for every hour worked! But that, too, is not always as simple as it sounds, especially once plaintiffs attorneys begin to delve into and test the intricacies of the law on behalf of disgruntled employees.
Obviously “hours worked” includes any time employees put in performing their official job duties at the work site. That’s the first and most common definition. But it also includes any hours employees are required to give to their employer “for the employer’s benefit.”
The best way to think of it: If a nonexempt employee is doing something to benefit the company, in any regard, the employer must compensate the employee appropriately. This can apply to a worker who wants to stay a while longer to finish a project, or jobs performed at home, or otherwise not physically performed at the work site.
Bottom line: If an employer is aware – or can reasonably assume – that a nonexempt employee is performing tasks for the benefit of the organization, then the employer must count that time as time worked and compensate the person.