Minimum Working Conditions
Federal law regulates wages, working hours and overtime pay for (covered) employees, but employees in executive, administrative or professional positions are exempt, as are outside sales employees, certain skilled computer professionals, employees of certain seasonal amusement and recreational businesses, causal babysitters and persons employed as companions to the elderly or infirm.
The (national) minimum wage for all non-exempt employees of $7.25 per hour. Effective 1 January 2020, the minimum wage for federal contractors working on or in connection with contracts covered by Executive Order 13658 will be $10.60 per hour. States are free to legislate a higher minimum wage. As of January 2020, 29 states and the District of Colombia have a minimum wage higher than the national minimum.
Maximum Working Week
American workplace law does not impose maximum working hours. However, many state statutes mandate daily rest periods as well as a one-day rest period each week; generally requiring that employees who work more than four hours per day receive a break of at least 10 minutes for every hour worked. Also, many states require an unpaid meal break of at least 30 minutes after employees worked a set number of hours per day (threshold working hours generally ranging from five to eight). Furthermore, several states mandate that employee receive at least one day off in each seven-day period.
Non-exempt employees must receive one-and-one-half times (1.5X) their regular rate of pay for all hours worked in excess of 40 hours per week. Generally, non-working time, including leaves of absence, rest periods, holidays and vacation time, is not counted toward the 40-hour-a-week overtime threshold.
Employer’s Obligation to Provide a Healthy and Safe Workplace
Employers are required to provide employees with a safe and healthy place of employment, which is free from recognised hazards (death or serious physical harm). Employers are obliged to: remedy known workplace hazards; limit the amount of hazardous chemicals workers can be exposed to; use certain safe practices and equipment; and monitor hazards and keep records of workplace injuries and illnesses. Regarding the COVID-19 pandemic, the U.S. Center for Disease Control (CDC) has issued new Guidance with detailed instructions on cleaning and disinfecting public spaces, workplaces, businesses, schools, and homes. The Guidance includes a Cleaning and Disinfection Decision Tool that distills the advice into a flow chart with different recommendations depending on whether the area is indoors, outdoors, frequently used, and the type of surface involved.
There are several ways that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration may initiate an inspection of an employer’s facility or worksite, in response to health and safety concerns that have been reported to the agency. Any employee who believes that he or she has been discharged or retaliated against as a result of engaging in protected activity, such as reporting potentially unsafe working conditions, may file a whistleblower complaint within 30 days of the discharge or other retaliatory conduct. Thus, in addition to ensuring overall compliance with OSHA safety and health standards, employers need to ensure that they have strong internal programs to encourage employees to voice safety and health complaints and do so without fear of retaliation.