Overview: Laws that establish a minimum wage and establish a threshold of hours beyond which employees must be paid overtime are commonly referred to as "wage and hour" laws.
At the federal level, the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) establishes a minimum wage of $7.25 and generally requires that employees be paid overtime at one and one-half times their regular rate of pay whenever they work more than 40 hours in a workweek. Most states also have their own wage and hour laws. Some are almost identical to the FLSA, while others differ significantly, so it is important for employers to pay attention to differences. When there is a conflict, the law that is most beneficial to the employee will apply.
Besides establishing minimum wage and overtime requirements, wage and hour laws also govern what counts as hours worked for which employees must be paid and establish rules for employee classification, which is the process of determining whether an employee qualifies for an exemption from the minimum wage and/or overtime requirements.
Child labor laws also are commonly classified under "wage and hour" because the FLSA sets federal child labor standards, and because state child labor laws typically regulate the hours during which minors are allowed to work.
Trends: Employees continue to win major settlements through collective actions lawsuits filed under the FLSA and state wage and hour laws. The US Department of Labor (DOL) and state labor agencies also have stepped up their enforcement of wage and hour laws, so compliance is more important than ever.
Author: Michael Cardman, Legal Editor
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HR and legal considerations for employers regarding federal and state wage and hour laws.