The Federal Labor Standards Act (FLSA) is a federal labor law that requires employers to pay employees for overtime and provide a federal minimum wage. The rate of pay an employer must pay is time and one half of the employee's regular rate of pay for any time exceeding 40 hours in one work week or seven consecutive days.
The FLSA only applies to certain employers and employees. The FLSA does not protect nonexempt employees such as salaried "white collar" workers. The FLSA specifically exempts certain professions and does not apply to employees covered by other federal labor laws.
How Overtime Pay is Calculated
The total "work time" that an employee has spent in job related activities must first be calculated. Potential work time includes time that an employee spends "on" and "off" the job. Different activities are considered work time. Basically, work time is that time an employee must spend on behalf of his employer and that cannot be used for an employee's own benefit or enjoyment. Time spent at an employer's worksite is work time; time that an employee spends doing work at home is also considered work time. If an employee eats at his desk and answers phones or monitors a machine, this is also work time. Any time spent "on call" or waiting for work is work time.
Time spent by an employee before the start or end of a shift is work time if the time is actually spent working. If an employee must work 24 hours or more in a row, time spent sleeping is work time if the employee does not get at least five hours of uninterrupted sleep. Time spent in training for a job is also work time. Time spent traveling from one work site to another is work time, but time spent commuting from home to work is not considered work time. Time spent eating meals is not work time if the period is at least 30 minutes long and the employee is free of work duties during the meal.
An employee who works over 40 hours per week must be paid time and one half of his regular rate of pay. The employee's "regular rate of pay" is sometimes easy to calculate, especially if the employee is an hourly employee. However, sometimes the calculation becomes complicated when the employee is a salaried employee. In that case, all compensation must be included as the employee's rate of pay such as bonuses, shift differentials, longevity pay and attendance pay.
Police officers, firefighters, and some emergency personnel may work on a 40 hour week schedule or on an alternative work schedule. In alternative work schedules, an employee who works beyond a certain numbers of hours (as designated by the Department of Labor) in a "work period" is entitled to overtime pay. In a 14 day 7(k) system, an employee would be entitled to overtime if his work hours exceeded 86 hours in 14 days. A 28 day 7(k) system requires an employee to work over 212 hours in a 28 day period before FLSA overtime pay is due.
An employee may make a formal complaint to the Department of Labor or bring a private suit to enforce his rights under the FLSA. The employee may be awarded back wages up to two years prior to initiation of the suit. Liquidated damages, or double the amount of back pay, may also be awarded instead of the interest on the unpaid wages, as well as any out-of-pocket litigation expenses, attorney fees, and in some cases, punitive damages.
Questions & Answers: Hours and Wages