The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), also known as the “wage and hour” law, is a federal employment law that sets minimum wage, overtime pay, equal pay, recordkeeping, child labor and even some employee absence standards.
The FLSA is extensive and complex, and compliance issues can test the sanity of even the most experienced manager. It’s also the most violated of any of the federal employment laws. That’s the bad news. The good news is we’ve broken it down into a Top 10 List of FLSA Rules.
There are 5 do’s and 5 don’ts. No, it’s not everything. But it is enough to get you going in the right direction.
The FLSA covers:
- Minimum wage: There is a Federal minimum wage. With the exception of a few types of employees, like commission sales people and certain service industry employees, all employers must pay AT LEAST the minimum wage per hour.Some states have a minimum wage that’s higher than the federal rate, and businesses in those states have to pay the higher amount. It’s the employers job to track employee attendance to accurately compute the wages owed.
- Overtime: Overtime is paid at one and one-half times an employee’s regular rate of pay for all hours worked in excess of 40 in a workweek. And as a business, you owe employees that pay even if the overtime was not pre-approved, so keep a close eye on hourly employee attendance.
- Equal pay for men and women (Equal Pay Act): Men and women who perform the same job at the same levels of skill, experience and responsibility must be paid the same.Be careful: violation of this law also raises a gender discrimination issue under federal and state fair employment laws, so you could be in for double or even triple trouble if you violate this law.
- Child labor: Children 13 years of age and younger generally are not allowed to work. There are certain exceptions for family businesses or agricultural work, so check with an attorney if you’re not sure. Children ages 14 and 15 may work, but only in nonhazardous occupations and only during certain hours. There is also a limitation on the total number of hours they can work each day and week. Individuals ages 16 and 17 may work any hours they want, but may not work in certain hazardous occupations. These laws do vary by state, so check with your local agency to make sure you’re meeting state child labor laws as well.
- Time and employee attendance recordkeeping requirements: For all employees, an employer must maintain records of the employee’s name, Social Security number, address, birth date if younger than 19 (for child labor provisions), gender (for Equal Pay Act compliance), total wages per pay period, date of payments and more.For hourly employees, an employer is required to maintain additional records showing the number of hours worked each workday and workweek, the employee’s regular hourly pay rate, total straight-time and overtime earnings for each workweek, and deductions from pay. Be sure your attendance tracking forms, software or online system accurately records allowable, unexcused and protected employee absences, paid holidays and all overtime in a timely manner to avoid fines or penalties down the road.
The FLSA does not require:
- Meal breaks and rest periods: Although some states require meal breaks and rest periods, federal law has no meal or rest break requirement.If you do not pay for these times, but expect employees to take meal breaks, make sure your attendance tracking forms or software allow employees to check in and out accurately, to avoid mistakes in reporting hours worked.
- Extra pay for Saturday or Sunday work: Additional extra compensation is not due for work performed on Saturdays and Sundays. The FLSA only requires that non-exempt employees be paid at one and one-half times their regular rate of pay for all hours worked in excess of 40 in a work week.
- Vacation, holiday, severance or sick pay: The FLSA does not require payment for time not worked, such as vacations, sick leave or holidays. Your company’s employee holiday regulations, vacation policies and sick leave plan are matters of agreement between an employer and an employee. But if your business offers vacation leave, sick leave, pays for offers paid employee holidays, or closes for some holidays, make sure your employee attendance records reflect the adjusted time accurately.
- Raises: The FLSA does not require raises. The Act only requires that non-exempt employees be paid no less than the federal minimum wage for each hour worked.
- Consent to work overtime: The FLSA does not require notice to or consent from employees when scheduling overtime hours. Employers have the discretion to establish employee work schedules as they desire, so long as workers are compensated properly, and wage and overtime requirements are observed. But remember, if they work it, you have to pay it at the overtime rate, even if you didn’t authorize it.
States and local governments are permitted to enact their own laws and regulations to provide even greater protection for their workers than is provided under federal law.
For example, many states have higher minimum wage rates, special rules for employee vacation pay and shift/weekend premiums. When two laws conflict, employers must follow the law that’s more beneficial to the employee.
Make sure your business is following the top 10 FLSA rules. Take the time to look over your business records, policies and practices to make sure they meet all 5 Do’s and all 5 Don’ts.
Take a good look at your employee absence tracking tools to make sure they record different types of absences legally. Then make the changes you need to get in line with the law. A little time and a few adjustments now could save you big problems later.