Knowing Your Rights Concerning Wages and Hours in the US Workplace


If you are an American or are currently working in America, it’s important that you understand your rights. The Department of Labor (DOL), administers and enforces over 180 federal laws. This provides employees and their employers, numerous rights in terms of their workplace.

Although these laws have been created and are currently enforced, many do not understand the rights in which they have. If you are wondering what your rights are with regards to hours and wages, the following information will inform you of what you may be missing.

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Understanding Your Rights: Wages and Hours

According to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), there are certain standards when it comes to your wages and potential overtime pay. These standards are set in place for most private and public places of employment. The following information is meant to inform you of your rights and the current laws:

Minimum Wage

As of July, 2009, the minimum wage in the US is $7.25 per hour. This means, as a legal US worker, you’re entitled to no less than this value each hour worked. With that being said, some states have different minimum wage values.

When it comes to state and federal minimum wage laws, the employee is entitled to the higher rate. For example, within the state of California, employees are entitled to no less than $9.00 per hour worked. This rate is expected to increase to $10, by 2016. Other states which have similar minimum wage rates, include; Washington, Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, and Vermont.

Working Overtime

Many are confused regarding overtime pay. Unless exempt, employees are entitled to overtime pay, when the hours worked is over 40/week. Not only are they entitled to pay, but they should receive a rate that is no less than 1.5 times their regular hourly wage.

Unless overtime hours are worked on weekends or holidays, these days do not require an overtime rate. While focusing on a work week, it is not limited to a calendar week. Instead, it is any period of 168 hours, being seven, consecutive 24-hour periods. At this time, there is no limit regarding the number of hours an employee can work within any given week (as long as they’re 16 or older).

Hours Worked

When you get paid, you will expect to be paid the hours in which you worked. Hours worked, typically includes all the time in which you (the employee) were required to be on your employer’s premise, or on duty. There are different circumstances, which can make this a bit tricky.

Waiting time for instance, is an area that can create some confusion. There are many positions that have employees engaged to wait. What does this mean? Well, a secretary could be working, however there may be very little activity going on that day. Although not many clients may have come into the office that day, they are still entitled to their hours worked. An instance when hours are not considered to be work hours, would be your commute to and from your workplace.

Understanding your rights is important. These laws are put into effect for a reason, which is why they should be enforced. If you or someone you know is being taken advantage of, not being paid for works worked, or any other related concerns, please feel free to contact the Department of Labor.

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