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A Few Common Questions Answered About Wage and Hour Laws


The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) is a federal statute that establishes the minimum wage, overtime pay eligibility, and other pay-related issues in the workforce that apply to full-time and part-time employees in the private sector and in federal, state, and local governments. There are many issues that can arise which involve this statute. Here are the answers to a few of the most common questions about wage and hour laws with which your employer should comply.

Q. What Does the New Overtime Rule Do?

The new overtime rule under the FLSA adjusted the minimum salary level that must be met before an employee can be exempt from overtime. In fact, it has more than doubled the previous federal threshold. What this means is, workers who are paid less than this threshold amount are now be guaranteed overtime pay.

Q. What if I am Misclassified as an Independent Contractor?

One important issue that is still at the forefront of employment cases is employee misclassification. When an employer misclassifies employees so they become exempt from wage and hour laws, that is a violation of the FLSA. According to the Department of Labor, there has been a steady increase of employers misclassifying workers as independent contractors in certain industries, including construction and technology.

The threshold issue for the DOL, in determining independent contractor status, is whether the employee is “economically dependent” on the employer which would make them an employee, as opposed to an independent contractor. On the other hand, if the employee is actually operating his or her own business, then the classification as an independent contractor may be accurate. Generally speaking, the DOL recommends the broadest definition of “employee,” so that most workers will be protected under the FLSA.

Q. What is the Difference Between Exempt and Nonexempt Status?

It is important to understand the distinction between exempt and nonexempt employees, even if you are considered an employee under the FLSA. This distinction will determine whether you are entitled to overtime pay, as well as other things. Whether you are exempt or not depends on these three factors: (1) how much you are paid, (2) how you are paid, and (3) what kind of work you do.

Q. Do all Employees Have a Right to a Break?

It may surprise you that federal law does not require employees to provide breaks during the day. In other words, you do not have a right to a lunch break or even short breaks during your work hours. However, if an employer gives you short breaks, they must be paid breaks. Of course, most employers give breaks as a matter of policy or practice, typically because employees who are hungry or tired are not as productive. Yet, federal law does not require employers to do so.

Q. Can I work Through My Break?

Under federal law, employers must pay for all hours worked, including the time that an employer designates as a “break.” For instance, if an employee has to work through lunch, they must be paid for that time. A receptionist who is required to cover the phones or wait for deliveries during lunch must be paid for that time. An administrative assistant who eats lunch at her desk while working, or a delivery person who eats lunch while driving to the next delivery, must also be paid for that time. Regardless of whether the employer refers to this time as a lunch break, the employee is still entitled to be paid.

If you feel you have been the victim of discrimination or retaliation in the workplace, or if you have any other questions regarding your employment rights, please contact the experienced Birmingham employment law attorneys at Michel | King . You can contact us either online or by calling us at (205) 265-1880. We are here to serve you!

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