A Simple Introduction to the Fair Labor Standards Act (For Employees)

Whether you wait tables at a fancy Manhattan brunch spot or work in a large corporation or stock brokerage, you might be confused about your rights under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). Perhaps your employer illegally withheld overtime payment; or maybe management raided your tip pool. In any case, here are some critical basics about the FLSA:

• Employees who are not exempt from the FLSA must be paid at least federal minimum wage, plus overtime for hours worked beyond 40 hours in one work week.

As of July 24, 2009, the minimum wage was $7.25 per hour. Employees who receive tips can be paid lower — as little as $2.13 per hour. But if your tips plus your wage does not reach the applicable minimum wage, your employer must make up the difference. For instance, let’s say your boss pays you $4.00 per hour plus tips. But you only make $2.00 per hour in tips. Your employer must make up that $1.25 per hour deficit (off the minimum wage threshold), or he or she will be in violation of FLSA.

Once you reach 40 hours a week, overtime equals 1.5 times your normal rate of pay.

Compensable hours — a.k.a. “work time” as understood by the FLSA — is defined more broadly than you may realize. It can include travel time, for instance. A U.S. Department of Labor whitepaper from June 2012 describes the rules: “In general, compensable hours worked include all time an employee is on duty or at a prescribed place of work and any time an employee is suffered or permitted to work. This would generally include work performed at home, travel time, waiting time, training and probationary periods.”

• The FLSA restricts what jobs young people can do.

• If you’re over 18, there are no restrictions;
• If you’re between ages of 16 and 17, you can work any job that’s not specifically hazardous;
• If you’re between ages of 15 and 14, you’re allowed to work in a variety of jobs — such as at a museum, park, restaurant, grocery store, office, etc – but restrictions apply. You generally cannot work on school days, for instance.
• If you’re 13 or younger, your work-scope is more limited, but you can also work as a performer, babysitter, and newspaper deliverer.
• The agricultural industry has its own set of rules regarding youth employment.
• States can have rules that govern what jobs and hours young people can work. Check out www.youthrules.dl.gov for more information on child labor laws.

What if your employer violated the FLSA, either intentionally or accidentally?

All too many workers – especially young and undereducated workers who work in service industries – fail to fully appreciate their rights under the law. As a result, they struggle mightily both with their bills and their self-esteem.

The team here at Joseph & Kirschenbaum, LLP is on your side. We have helped thousands of workers get justice and collect significant back pay per the FLSA. Find out more about us here at www.jhllp.com, or call us now for a confidential, free evaluation of your matter: (212) 688-5640.