The Fair Labor Standards Act was enacted to protect employees from employers who try to pay employee wages that are either legally too low or too late.
Almost every employee has the right to be paid at least the minimum wage. At the present time, federal law sets the minimum wage at $7.25 per hour. So, no matter what happens, you must be paid at least $7.25 for every hour you work. Your employer cannot legally pay you less because you are not a good worker or because you made a mistake on the job.
Other than for standard deductions for such things as taxes and health insurance, your employer is legally prohibited from taking money out of your paycheck if that would cause your pay to fall below the minimum wage level.
In most cases, the law provides that employees have the right to be paid overtime if they work more than forty hours in a single week. Some jurisdictions also have laws that give employees the right to overtime pay if they work more than eight hours in a day. The amount of overtime can vary, but the law usually requires that employers pay at least time and a half for overtime work.
While most workers do have the right to be paid overtime, some do not. These are called exempt employees.
Normally, salaried employees with broad job responsibilities are usually exempt from receiving overtime pay. These employees frequently are paid by salary and not by the hour. The law provides very specific tests to determine if an employee is or is not exempt from overtime pay.
Exemptions can vary depending on your jurisdiction. Even if you think you are exempt under one set of laws, you might be in a jurisdiction is more worker-friendly and which provide you the right to be paid overtime. The following types of workers are usually exempt from receiving overtime pay:
Professional workers are usually exempt from laws requiring overtime pay. The reasoning advanced for this distinction is that highly trained employees normally have received a great deal of training and possess advanced degrees. Professional employees also make important decisions without a lot of supervision. Workers who usually qualify as professionals include lawyers, doctors, dentists, registered nurses, accountants, architects, scientists and teachers.
If you are legally considered an administrator, you are probably not entitled to overtime pay. Whether or not a worker qualifies as an administrator and therefore is exempt from overtime pay usually turns on whether the administrator possesses major operational responsibilities for running the business. Normally this would entail exercising discretion and independent judgment on the job. If you do not have such responsibilities, chances are you would not be considered an administrator and might therefore be entitled to overtime pay.
Workers that are considered executive employees are exempt from laws requiring overtime pay. Executive’s employees do not have to be wearing expensive suits or work for a big corporation. Under the general legal test for who is an executive and who is not, you will probably not be exempt if you make more then $350 per week, you have management responsibilities and you are regularly managing the work of at least two other full time employees. More often then not, managing employees mean that you have the right to hire and fire employees. Managing can also mean planning how the work will be done at the company and who is responsible for doing the work.
Finally, the most common type of exempt employee is the outside sales person. If you travel to make sales, you probably will be considered exempt from earning overtime pay.
The best approach to these issues is to not assume that you are exempt, but rather to present these types of issues to a qualified and experienced labor attorney for a legal opinion.
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