Labor and Employment Law Overview: Alaska

Labor and Employment Law Overview requirements for other states

Federal law and guidance on this subject should be reviewed together with this section.

Author: XpertHR Editorial Team

Summary

  • State law prohibits an employer from discriminating and retaliating against employees in a variety of protected classes. See EEO, Diversity and Employee Relations.
  • Alaska permits drug testing, but limits criminal background checks to certain positions. See Recruiting and Hiring.
  • In Alaska, there are many requirements relating to the minimum wage, overtime and child labor. See Wage and Hour.
  • Alaska law dictates how often employers must pay wages, pay statement requirements and permissible and prohibited deductions to wages. See Pay and Benefits.
  • State law gives employees the right to take certain leaves of absence. See Attendance and Leave.
  • Alaska law provides certain requirements impacting health and safety, including restrictions on smoking and weapons in the workplace. See Health and Safety.
  • Alaska dictates final pay requirements and has a job reference immunity statute protecting employers that provide job references. See Organizational Exit.

Introduction to Employment Law in Alaska

Alaska is generally considered a middle-of-the-road state, meaning it does not lean toward being either employee- or employer-friendly.

Select Alaska employment requirements are summarized below to help an employer understand the range of employment laws affecting the employer-employee relationship in the state. An employer must comply with both federal and state law.

An employer must also comply with applicable municipal law obligations affecting the employment relationship, in addition to complying with state and federal requirements.

EEO, Diversity and Employee Relations

The Alaska Human Rights Act (AHRA) applies to employers with one or or employees and prohibits an employer from refusing employment to a person, barring a person from employment or discriminating against a person in compensation or in a term, condition or privilege of employment based on a protected class, such as:

  • Race;
  • Religion;
  • Color;
  • National origin;
  • Age;
  • Physical or mental disability;
  • Sex;
  • Marital status;
  • Changes in marital status;
  • Pregnancy; and
  • Parenthood.

Sexual harassment and harassment based on other protected characteristics is prohibited under the AHRA.

The AHRA also requires employers to pay men and women equal pay for doing the same or comparable work. The law does not, however, prohibit pay differences based on legitimate, nondiscriminatory factors (e.g., merit).

Be aware that where there is overlap between federal, state and/or local law, complying with the law that offers the greatest rights or benefits to the employee will generally apply.

Additional information on EEO, diversity and employee relations practices in Alaska can be found in the Alaska Employee Handbook Table of Contents, Disabilities (ADA): Alaska, EEO - Discrimination: Alaska, EEO - Harassment: Alaska, Alaska Workplace Labor and Employment Law Posters and Does This Law Apply to My Organization in Alaska? Federal requirements can be found in Disabilities (ADA): Federal, EEO - Discrimination: Federal and EEO - Harassment: Federal.

Recruiting and Hiring

Key Alaska requirements impacting recruiting and hiring are:

Background Checks

An employer may obtain a job applicant's criminal history record that contains:

  • Past conviction information;
  • Current offender information; or
  • Criminal identification information (e.g., fingerprints, photographs).

Employers may not request arrest records (nonconviction information) or correctional treatment information. Additionally, employees are not obligated to disclose expunged arrest or conviction records.

Alaska employers are required to conduct criminal background checks for certain positions, such as:

  • Nurses;
  • Security guards;
  • School bus drivers;
  • Teachers; and
  • Public home care providers.

Drug Testing

Alaska employers may test prospective employees for the presence of drugs and may refuse to hire applicants that test positive for controlled substances. However, employers must provide applicants with prior notice that they will be tested and must pay the costs related to the testing.

Applicants may provide any information relevant to the test (e.g., a list of recently used prescription or nonprescription drugs). All information received by the employer during the testing process, or that is related to the testing process, must be maintained on a confidential basis.

Employers need not accept medical marijuana usage as a legitimate excuse for an applicant's positive drug test, and there is no law precluding employers from denying employment as a result.

Lie Detector Tests

Alaska employers may not require job applicants or employees to submit to a polygraph or lie detector test as a condition of employment or continued employment. There are certain exceptions, such as for individuals employed as police officers.

Be aware that where there is overlap between federal, state and/or local law, complying with the law that offers the greatest rights or benefits to the employee will generally apply.

Additional information on recruiting and hiring practices in Alaska can be found in Preemployment Screening and Testing: Alaska. Federal requirements can be found in Preemployment Screening and Testing: Federal.

Wage and Hour

Key Alaska requirements impacting wages and hours are:

Minimum Wage

The Alaska Wage and Hour Act sets the state's minimum wage higher than the federal rate. The minimum wage in Alaska is currently $9.75 per hour. On January 1, 2017, and every January 1 thereafter, the minimum wage will be adjusted for inflation. State law requires the state's minimum wage to be at least one dollar more than the federal minimum wage.

Overtime

The Alaska Wage and Hour Act (AWHA) is like the federal Fair Labor Standards Act in that it requires employers to pay nonexempt employees overtime for all hours worked in excess of 40 hours in a workweek. The AWHA also requires employers to pay employees overtime when they work more than eight hours in a workday. Overtime must be paid at one and one-half times the employee's regular rate of pay.

Child Labor

Child labor laws in Alaska restrict the occupations in which minors may be employed and the number of hours and times during which they may work.

All minors are generally prohibited from working in hazardous occupations, and 14 and 15 year olds are prohibited from working in a variety of other occupations such as manufacturing and transportation.

Alaska also has requirements that govern the times during which minors may work. Minors 18 and under may work no more than six days a week. Additionally, minors 16 and under:

  • May not be employed for more than a combined total of nine hours of school attendance and employment in one day;
  • May work only between 5:00 a.m. and 9:00 p.m.;
  • May work up to 23 hours in one week when school is in session, except domestic work and babysitting; and
  • May work up to 40 hours a week when school is out.

Alaska employers must provide a rest break of at least 30 minutes to minors who are scheduled to work for six or more consecutive hours. The rest break must occur after the first hour and a half of work and before the beginning of the last hour of work. Minors under age 18 who work for five consecutive hours without a break also are entitled to a break of at least 30 minutes.

Additional information on wage and hour practices in Alaska can be found in the Alaska Employee Handbook Table of Contents, Minimum Wage: Alaska, Overtime: Alaska, Child Labor: Alaska, Alaska Workplace Labor and Employment Law Posters and Does This Law Apply to My Organization in Alaska? Federal requirements can be found in Minimum Wage: Federal, Overtime: Federal and Child Labor: Federal.

Pay and Benefits

Key Alaska requirements impacting pay and benefits are:

Pay Frequency

An employer and employee may agree in the initial contract of employment to monthly pay periods. Otherwise, the employer must establish monthly or semimonthly pay periods, as chosen by employees.

Pay Statements

Alaska employers must provide employees with pay statements of earnings and deductions each pay period. The statement must contain the following information:

  • Rate of pay;
  • Gross and net wages;
  • Beginning and ending dates of the pay period;
  • Deductions for federal income taxes, Social Security and Medicare (FICA) taxes and Alaska unemployment insurance contributions;
  • Board and lodging costs;
  • Pay advances;
  • The number of straight time and overtime hours actually worked in the pay period; and
  • Other authorized deductions.

Wage Deductions

Employers may make certain types of deductions from employees' wages, such as:

  • Deductions required by state or federal law;
  • Amounts withheld for contributions authorized in writing by employees or under a collective bargaining agreement to a fund for the benefit of employees, including a fund for medical, health, hospital, welfare and pension benefits; and
  • Amounts authorized by the employee in writing to pay to a creditor, donee or other third party.

State law specifically prohibits employers from making deductions for several reasons, including:

  • Returned customer checks;
  • Nonpayment for goods or services resulting from theft or credit default;
  • Cash or cash register shortages (unless the employer obtains a written confession from the responsible employee); and
  • Nonaccidental damage or breakage costs (unless the employer obtains a written confession from the responsible employee).

Be aware that where there is overlap between federal, state and/or local law, complying with the law that offers the greatest rights or benefits to the employee will generally apply.

Additional information on pay and benefits practices in Alaska can be found in Payment of Wages: Alaska and Involuntary and Voluntary Pay Deductions: Alaska. Federal requirements can be found in Payment of Wages: Federal and Involuntary and Voluntary Pay Deductions: Federal.

Attendance and Leave

Alaska has fewer laws relating to required leaves for employees than many other states, but does have mandated leave laws such as:

  • Crime victim leave;
  • Jury duty leave;
  • Military leave; and
  • Voting leave.

Be aware that where there is overlap between federal, state and/or local law, complying with the law that offers the greatest rights or benefits to the employee will generally apply.

Additional information on attendance and leave practices in Alaska can be found in the Alaska Employee Handbook Table of Contents, Jury Duty: Alaska, USERRA: Alaska and Other Leaves: Alaska. Federal requirements can be found in Jury Duty: Federal, USERRA: Federal and Other Leaves: Federal.

Health and Safety

Key Alaska requirements impacting health and safety are:

Smoking Restrictions

Alaska prohibits smoking in certain workplaces and environments, such as schools, child care facilities, the majority of health care facilities and elevators. Additionally, Alaska places smoking restrictions on other workplaces and public areas. Employers that decide to allow smoking in designated areas, must protect the health of nonsmokers by separation, partition or ventilation; and by conspicuously displaying a sign that includes the universal no-smoking sign as well as another sign that specifies the portions of the place where smoking is allowed.

Employers are not required to make accommodations for smokers and do not have to create a designated smoking area. In Alaska, the employer may designate the entire workplace as smoke-free.

Weapons in the Workplace

Employers may create and enforce no-weapons policies for the workplace and prohibit bringing a weapon into a facility and in employer-owned, -rented or -leased vehicles. If choosing to prohibit weapons, employers must post a conspicuous notice prohibiting firearms at each entrance to restricted access areas, as well as in and surrounding the affected parking areas.

Alaska also has a parking lot storage law that prohibits employers from making policies to prevent firearm owners from storing lawfully owned firearms or ammunition in a locked, privately owned vehicle in a public or private parking lot. However, employers may prohibit firearms in a locked vehicle within 300 feet of or inside a "secured restricted access area" that does not include common areas of ingress and egress open to the public.

Alaska Occupational Safety and Health

Alaska operates its job safety and health programs covering the private sector under a state plan approved by the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration. The state plan is administered and enforced by the Alaska Occupational Safety and Health Section (AKOSH), which is part of the Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development, Labor Standards and Safety Division.

The Alaska state plan has some rules that are stricter than its federal counterpart. In particular, more protective rules exist with regard to reporting workplace injuries and fatalities, safety and loss programs, bloodborne pathogens and hazard communication.

Be aware that where there is overlap between federal, state and/or local law, complying with the law that offers the greatest rights or benefits to the employee will generally apply.

Additional information on health and safety practices in Alaska can be found in the Alaska Employee Handbook Table of Contents, Employee Health: Alaska, Workplace Security: Alaska, HR and Workplace Safety: Alaska and Alaska Workplace Labor and Employment Law Posters. Federal requirements can be found in Employee Health: Federal, Workplace Security: Federal and HR and Workplace Safety (OSHA Compliance): Federal.

Organizational Exit

Key Alaska requirements impacting organizational exit are:

References

Employers that provide job references in good faith enjoy a qualified immunity from claims under Alaska law. A lack of good faith can be shown if the reference-giving employer:

  • Recklessly, knowingly or maliciously disclosed false or deliberately misleading information; or
  • Disclosed information in violation of an employee's civil rights under federal or state human rights law.

Final Paycheck

Terminated employees must generally be paid outstanding wages within three working days after they are terminated. Employees who resign must be paid on the next regular payday that is at least three days after the employer received notice of the resignation.

Be aware that where there is overlap between federal, state and/or local law, complying with the law that offers the greatest rights or benefits to the employee will generally apply.

Additional information on organizational exit practices in Alaska can be found in Employee Communications: Alaska and Payment of Wages: Alaska. Federal requirements can be found in Employee Communications: Federal and Payment of Wages: Federal.