Legal Definition of Wage and Hour Laws

Slavery was abolished in the United States 150 years ago. Since then, other forms of indentured servitude have been wiped out by labor unions and their work with various state and federal governments.

Thanks to these laws, no one is working for less than they deserve, gaining a sense of dignity.

Dignity is a key with most workers, no matter what work they are doing. And having some rules and laws to prevent companies from taking unfair advantage of workers has served to be very protective or workers, but has also affected the economy in other ways in terms of unemployment and average wages.

Called “wage and hour laws,” these laws at the state and federal level are a series of laws that provide for minimum hourly wages, hours of work, maximum hours of work before implementation of overtime, and establishing terms of overtime pay and vacation and sick-leave compensation.

Much of what states have created are based off the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), which set federal labor guidelines, including minimum wage, a full-time work week, overtime guidelines and establishment of overtime and paid time off.

States have their own related laws involving wages and work hours, but they cannot be more restrictive than the FLSA, though they can be more generous and minimum wages can be higher than the federal minimum but cannot be lower.

Employers are required to comply with the FLSA by keeping truthful and accurate records of wages and hours worked by employees. On occasion, however, there are lawsuits involving possible violations of these wage and hour laws, either federally or at the state level. Actually, when it comes to employment or labor law, wage and hour laws are the most common maters in courts. The most common lawsuits involving wage and hour laws include:

  • Exemptions to overtime pay. There are some positions that are considered exempt from FLSA overtime rules, but some employers may mis-classify certain positions as exempt in order to avoid paying the federally mandated 1.5 times for overtime pay. The types of jobs that can be deemed exempt are spelled out in the FLSA, and it is a federal crime to declare exemptions or jobs outside the scope of the law.
  • Another common lawsuit mater involves the distinction between actual duties performed on a job vs. the job description. The FLSA allows exemptions for jobs which have specific job duties performed, and not just what is in a job title or on paper. Some employees will sue when they are doing jobs that should be compliant with FLSA when the job title or job description is considered exempt. Any incongruity between job title and duties can be grounds for a lawsuit.
  • What is called “off the clock” work. This may involve some employers changing a standard 40-hour work week by having 10-hour days and four-day weeks. There are also examples of companies trying to say that business meetings are not part of the work day and thus are not paid hours eligible for overtime. There are also some employers who may discriminate or retaliate against employees by withholding paychecks or bonuses.

Thanks to wage and hour laws, no worker above the age of 16 can work for slave wages or less. Knowing these laws can be a great protection for employees to hold employers accountable for their compliance with the law so as to not take a few extra profits on the backs of workers who deserve fair wages and reasonable work schedules.