Labor and Employment Law Overview: Arkansas

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 against employees in a variety of protected classes. See EEO, Diversity and Employee Relations.
  • Arkansas mandates that certain professionals undergo a background check before they may be hired. See Recruiting and Hiring.
  • In Arkansas, certain employers must pay employees a statutory minimum wage. See Wage and Hour.
  • Arkansas has a few laws that relate to employee pay and benefits, including how often employees must be paid and health care continuation. See Pay and Benefits.
  • Under Arkansas law, employees are entitled to certain leaves including time off for jury duty and voting and military leave. See Attendance and Leave.
  • Arkansas law prohibits smoking in most workplaces. See Health and Safety.

Introduction to Employment Law in Arkansas

Arkansas is generally considered an employer-friendly state.

Select Arkansas 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

Key Arkansas requirements impacting EEO, diversity and employee relations are:

The Arkansas Civil Rights Act and Protected Classes

The Arkansas Civil Rights Act (ACRA) provisions generally apply to employers with nine or more employees and protects several protected classes from employer discrimination, including:

  • Race;
  • Religion;
  • Gender (including pregnancy, childbirth and related medical conditions);
  • National origin or ancestry;
  • Citizenship;
  • Sensory, physical or mental disability;
  • Genetic information; and
  • Military service.

The ACRA anti-retaliation provisions apply to all employers in Arkansas.

The Arkansas Department of Labor is responsible for administering this law.

Genetic Information in the Workplace Act

The Genetic Information in the Workplace Act prohibits an employer from:

  • Seeking to obtain or use a genetic test or genetic information of an employee or prospective employee for the purposes of distinguishing between or discriminating against or restricting any right or benefit otherwise due or available to an employee or prospective employee; and
  • Requiring a genetic test of or genetic information from an employee or prospective employee for the purposes of distinguishing between or discriminating against or restricting any right or benefit otherwise due or available to an employee or prospective employee.

Military Service Protection Act

The Military Service Protection Act prohibits an employer from discriminating against any person because of his or her military service.

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 Arkansas can be found in the Arkansas Employee Handbook Table of Contents, Disabilities (ADA): Arkansas, EEO - Discrimination: Arkansas, EEO - Retaliation: Arkansas, Arkansas Workplace Labor and Employment Law Posters and Does This Law Apply to My Organization in Arkansas? Federal requirements can be found in Disabilities (ADA): Federal, EEO - Discrimination: Federal and EEO - Retaliation: Federal.

Recruiting and Hiring

Background Checks

Arkansas law mandates that certain professionals undergo a background check before they may be hired, for example:

  • Nurses;
  • Pharmacists;
  • Social workers and mental health professionals;
  • Persons caring for the elderly and the disabled;
  • Certified public accountants;
  • Real estate agents; and
  • Insurance agents and producers.

Medical and Drug Testing

An Arkansas employer can require applicants and employees to undergo a physical, medical examination or drug test as a condition of employment or continued employment if the physical, medical examination or drug test is provided at no cost to the employee or applicant and the employee or applicant is provided with a free copy of the test results upon written request. Arkansas law does not mandate the manner or type of drug testing procedures employers must use.

Arkansas does not mandate that an employer drug test prospective employees. However, an employer that voluntarily conducts such a test may be eligible for a five-percent discount on its workers' compensation insurance premiums.

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 Arkansas can be found in Preemployment Screening and Testing: Arkansas. Federal requirements can be found in Preemployment Screening and Testing: Federal.

Wage and Hour

Key Arkansas requirements impacting wages and hour are:

Minimum Wage

The Minimum Wage Act of the State of Arkansas requires an employer with four or more employees to pay their employees at least $8.00 an hour. Arkansas' minimum wage will increase to $8.50 on January 1, 2017.

Overtime

An employer with four or more employees must pay employees one and one-half times their regular rate of pay for any time worked in excess of 40 hours in one week. An employer does not have to pay overtime compensation to the employees who are exempt from overtime payments under federal law and other Arkansas laws.

Meal and Rest Breaks for Minors

Minors working in the entertainment industry must have a 30- to 60-minute meal break if they are at the place of employment for at least five and a half hours. Unless an employer obtains special permission, minors working in the entertainment industry also must have at least a 12-hour rest break between workdays. With permission, an employer may reduce the rest break to 10 hours between workdays.

Breastfeeding Breaks

Nursing mothers are entitled to reasonable unpaid break time to express breast milk. This can include a paid or unpaid break that the employer already provides. An employer must make a reasonable effort to provide employees with a private, secure and sanitary room or other location in close proximity to the employee's work area (other than a toilet stall) where an employee can express milk. The space can be the employee's work space as long as it is private, secure and sanitary.

If providing such a break would create a significant difficulty or expense on the employer, the employer may be excused from providing this break.

Child Labor

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

For instance, children younger than 14 years old may not be employed except by a parent's or guardian's business during school vacation. Children younger than 16 years old may not work in a saloon, resort or bar that serves alcohol or in certain dangerous occupations (e.g., manufacturing, mining, or processing occupations).

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

Pay and Benefits

Key Arkansas requirements impacting pay and benefits are:

Termination Pay

An employer must pay all wages due to an employee who is terminated involuntarily within seven days after termination.

Pay Frequency

The pay frequency requirements apply to all corporations doing business in Arkansas that employ salespeople, mechanics, laborers or other employees. These types of employers must pay employees at least semimonthly.

Corporations with gross annual income of $500,000 or more must pay managers and executives who are exempt from the provisions of the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and earn more than $25,000 per year on a monthly basis, and nonexempt employees at least semimonthly. More frequent payments are permitted.

Health Care Continuation Coverage

The Arkansas health care continuation (mini-COBRA) law requires that employers provide employees, their spouses and their dependents the option of continuing health care coverage under certain circumstances. Unlike federal continuation under the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA), Arkansas continuation coverage is not available in the event of a covered employee's death. In addition, Arkansas continuation coverage does not have to include benefits for dental care, vision services or prescription drugs.

The maximum period of coverage is up to 120 days following the date coverage would have otherwise terminated.

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 Arkansas can be found in Payment of Wages: Arkansas and Health Care Continuation (COBRA): Arkansas. Federal requirements can be found in Payment of Wages: Federal and Health Care Continuation (COBRA): Federal.

Attendance and Leave

Arkansas has several laws relating to required leaves for employees, which mainly cover all employers (with the exception of military leave as noted below). These laws include:

  • Jury duty leave;
  • Crime victim leave;
  • Military leave (covering employers with five or more employees);
  • Voting leave; and
  • Organ or bone marrow donor 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 Arkansas can be found in the Arkansas Employee Handbook Table of Contents, Jury Duty: Arkansas, USERRA: Arkansas and Other Leaves: Arkansas. Federal requirements can be found in Jury Duty: Federal, USERRA: Federal and Other Leaves: Federal.

Health and Safety

Smoking in the Workplace

Arkansas law prohibits smoking in all enclosed areas in all places of employment, including, for example, common work areas, conference rooms, private offices, elevators, hallways, health care facilities, cafeterias, employee lounges, stairs and restrooms.

Cell Phone Use/Texting While Driving

Arkansas law prohibits all drivers from using a handheld wireless telephone to text, email or access the internet while operating a motor vehicle, except in the case of emergencies.

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 Arkansas can be found in the Arkansas Employee Handbook Table of Contents, Employee Health: Arkansas and HR and Workplace Safety: Arkansas. Federal requirements can be found in Employee Health: Federal and HR and Workplace Safety (OSHA Compliance): Federal.

Organizational Exit

Upon written consent of a current or former employee, an employer may disclose certain information, such as an employee's job history, job description and attendance history. An employer may deliver information in a convenient format, including any electronic format. The written consent must contain certain required language (i.e., indicating that it is only valid for the length of time that the application is considered active, but in no event should the consent last for longer than six months).

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 references in Arkansas can be found in Process of Termination: Arkansas. Federal requirements can be found in Process of Termination: Federal.