Employees: Wages and Hours FAQ


Q: Am I to be paid overtime for any time I work over eight hours in a day?

  • A: Not necessarily. While there are some exempt employees such as managers, or special requirements found in hospitals or nursing homes, the Fair Labor Standards Act ("FLSA") requires overtime to be paid on time over the standard 40 hour work week. Your employer can request that you work more than eight hours in a single day, on weekends or holidays as long as the total time doesn't exceed 40 hours per week.


Q: Can an employer dock my pay?

  • A: It depends on what you mean by "dock." If you are a non-exempt employee, you must be paid your hourly wage for every hour that you work. You need not be paid for time you do not work.

    Your employer can only take deductions from your pay in certain specific circumstances - check with the Wage and Hour division of your state Department of Labor for the specifics in your state.

    If you are an exempt employee, you must be paid your full salary every week in which you work with the following exceptions:

    • The first week you work (if not a complete week)
    • The last week you work (if not a complete week)
    • Any week in which you took FMLA time (if not made whole by vacation or sick time)
    • A week in which you took an entire work day off that was not covered by vacation or personal time
    • A week in which you took a complete sick day and you either were not eligible for or had exceeded your sick time under your company's policy
    • A week in which you were suspended for a major safety violation


Q: Can an employer refuse to pay me overtime?

  • A: It depends. The requirements for overtime pay for most employees are covered by the federal Fair Labor Standards Act. Eligibility depends on:
    • The type of work you do
    • The number of individuals employed in the company and
    • Whether your employer conducts business exclusively within your state lines or across state lines

    Covered employees must be paid one and a half times the regular rate of pay for the hours over a standard work week of 40. However, if you took it upon yourself to work unauthorized overtime, you may be subject to discipline for doing so. If you believe you're entitled to overtime pay and the employer isn't paying you, consider contacting your state's Department of Labor.


Q: I just found out that someone who was hired after I was is making more money than I am. Isn't that illegal?

  • A: Not necessarily. If the co-worker's skills, education, background or other history warrant it, they can be paid more than you are. If the jobs have different responsibilities, compensation levels can be different.

    But pay differentiation can't be based on what's a called a "protected characteristic." For example, if you and someone else are performing exactly the same job and he's getting paid more than you because he's male and you're female, that would be illegal.


Q: I was promised a raise three months ago but I haven't gotten it yet. What should I do?

  • A: Consider talking to your employer, but understand that raises aren't mandated by either federal or state law. If the employer's situation has changed since the offer, it's possible they can't afford the raise at this time and would not be obligated to increase your rate of pay.


Q: If I sue under FLSA for wages I think I should have received, what might I get?

  • A: Damages available under the FLSA include past wages, attorney fees and "liquidated damages," which can double the amount of recovery. This usually applies for two years back, but can apply for as far as three years back.


Q: If my state's minimum wage is different than the federal minimum wage, which do I get?

  • A: The higher of the two. State laws can provide greater wage protection than federal law.


Q: I've been fired. When should I receive my final paycheck?

  • A: State law sets the specific time frame when final paychecks are due. The requirement may be within a certain number of hours, days or possibly at the next regularly scheduled pay period. Check with your state's Department of Labor for specific details.


Q: My compensation is primarily commission, and layoffs are coming. Will I receive my commissions?

  • A: Assuming there are no other factors involved, the company cannot legally keep all of the commissions you earned prior to being let go, even if the actual payment is made by the customer after you have left. Some companies do not pay sales commissions to their salespersons until the client or customer pays their bill. Regardless, an employee who makes the sale should receive the compensation due.

    Each state has set requirements relating to the payment of commissions under these circumstances, whether immediately or after the client pays the former employer. Check with your state's Department of Labor for the specifics.


Q: Should I be paid for breaks or my lunch time?

  • A: The Department of Labor generally holds that if a break is less than 20 minutes, the time is paid. A lunch break of 30 minutes must be provided when working five hours or longer and should be paid time if the employee has no duties during the time.


Q: Should I be paid for the time I travel for work?

  • A: Generally, you should be compensated for travel time conducted for work during work hours, but not for ordinary home-to-work travel.


Q: What is considered "work time" which I can be paid for?

  • A: Any activity which an employee performs that benefits the employer is usually counted as work time. This included activities such as store meetings prior to opening, set-up and take-down of equipment or materials, or taking work home. Training is also counted as work time unless the training is held outside normal work times, completely voluntary, not directly related to his or her job and no work is performed during the time.


Q: What is the FLSA?

  • A: The Fair Labor Standards Act or FLSA is federal legislation that:
    • Defines the 40-hour workweek
    • Covers the federal minimum wage
    • Sets requirements for overtime, and
    • Places restrictions on child labor


Q: When must overtime be paid?

  • A: Overtime must be paid on the regular payday for the pay period covered and typically in cash. Compensatory time or payment of overtime with other "non-cash" items is not acceptable.



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