Employment Law

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Questions on Fair Labor Standards Act Regulations

The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) aims to protect employee rights in most private and public employment settings through prescribed standards for basic minimum wage and overtime pay. The federal statute of the United States requires employers to pay covered employees who are not otherwise exempt at least the federal minimum wage and overtime pay of one-and-one-half-times the regular rate of pay. The Act is administered by the Employment Standards Administration's Wage and Hour Division within the U.S. Department of Labor.

Employment Lawyers on JustAnswer frequently answer questions related to the FLSA. Below are the top five questions related to the Act.

What are my privileges under the FLSA for taking leave from work?

The FLSA only regulates how much you can work, not the leave you may take. If you need leave for a medical condition, or to take care of a family member, you are usually entitled to 12 weeks of unpaid leave.

In general, the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) entitles an "eligible employee" to take up to a total of 12 work weeks of unpaid leave during any 12-month period for the birth of a child and to care for such child, for the placement of a child for adoption or foster care, to care for a spouse or an immediate family member with a serious health condition, or when he or she is unable to work because of a serious health condition.

Employers covered by the law are required to maintain any pre-existing group health coverage during the leave period and, once the leave period is concluded, to reinstate the employee to the same or an equivalent job with equivalent employment benefits, pay, and other terms and conditions of employment.

FLSA applies only to public entities with 50 or more employees. Is this true?

The Fair Labor Standards Act applies to all public agencies. The laws applying to an organization or governmental entity with 50 or more employees fall under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), and not the FLSA.

What are the laws for salary payment under FLSA vs. the FMLA?

Under the FLSA (Fair Labor Standards Act), you only have to pay the employee for time actually worked. If the employee doesn't come to work, he/she doesn't have to be paid (unless you have a contract or policy that allows for the employees to have paid time off).

Under the FMLA (Family Medical Leave Act), you generally have to allow the employee time off to treat a medical condition. However, you have no obligation to pay that employee for that time off from work.

I was fired for refusing to work overtime without pay as per the FLSA.

You may have a FLSA retaliation claim. An employer cannot fire you for asserting your rights under FLSA. You might (but this depends on the circumstances) have an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) claim against them for discriminatory practices (e.g., race-based firing). However, it is a difficult claim to make, as you would be required to provide evidence thereof.

Regardless, get all of your documentation together for evidence. Make sure that you have everything documented, to the extent possible, and that you can bring that to an attorney to assist you.

While you may file this claim anywhere, it might be in your interest to file it in the state where you were fired (otherwise you might face a change of venue or forum non-convenience motion).

Also, speak with an attorney that deals with employment law claims. An FLSA retaliation claim, in addition to actual and punitive damages, allows for court costs and reasonable attorney fees. You should be able to find an attorney that will at least give you a free initial consultation and be better able to advise you of your rights, obligations, likelihood of success, and how courts in your area are treating these types of cases.

What is the law regarding payroll deduction of employee insurance benefits beyond a certain threshold for low-income wage earners?

The provision under FLSA, in part, is as follows:

(1) Only an express or implied contract addressing deductions would authorize an employer to make any deductions that reduce earnings below the regular rate for the straight time hours; and (2) the minimum amount that must be paid “free and clear” for the straight time hours may never be less than the highest applicable statutory minimum wage (“¼ all the straight time compensation due, ¼ for the non-overtime hours, ¼ under any applicable statute,” (29 CFR §778.315)).

Finally, as noted above, 29 CFR §531.37(a) authorizes only “bona fide deductions” that “are made for particular items in accordance with the agreement or understanding of the parties,” and declares manipulations that evade statutory overtime requirements to be illegal.

Also state law may be even more protective, depending on where you live. There is no absolute minimum, since it would depend on how many hours the employee worked. If you assume 8 dollars per hour at 40 hours a week, then total wages would come out to 320 dollars. Here, the minimum take-home would be a fourth of that, or 80 dollars. Whereas, if you have an employee who just worked half that time, he would only be entitled to 40 dollars, since his total take-home pay would be 160.

It is in your best interest to be aware of your rights under the FLSA. If these rights are violated, you may file a complaint by contacting the local Wage and Hour Division office. An employee may file a private suit, generally for the previous two years of back pay (three years in the case of a willful violation) and an equal amount as liquidated damages, plus attorney fees and court costs.

It is a violation of the Act to fire or in any other manner discriminate against an employee for filing a complaint or for participating in a legal proceeding under the Act. Contact Employment Lawyers at JustAnswer to learn more about rights guaranteed to you under the FLSA.
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