1. Minimum Working Conditions
The federal Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”) regulates wages, working hours and overtime pay for covered employees. Certain employees employed in “executive, administrative or professional” positions are not covered under the FLSA and are deemed “exempt” from its requirements. Other categories of employees are also “exempt” under the FLSA. These include, among others, 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. Other categories of employees are exempt from the FLSA’s overtime pay requirements only.
The FLSA sets forth a (national) minimum wage for all non-exempt employees of $7.25 per hour. As directed by President Barack Obama in Executive Order 13658, the U.S Department of Labor (“DOL”) released a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking in June 2014 to increase the minimum wage for all workers on new federal contracts. On September 16, 2015, the DOL announce that the minimum wage rate is increased to $10.15 per hour beginning January 1, 2016. States are free to legislate a higher minimum wage.
3. 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. Also, many states require an unpaid meal break of at least 30 minutes after employees worked a set number of hours per day.
Under the FLSA, 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.
Although the United States government recognizes several “national holidays,” no federal law requires employers to provide employees with time off for a holiday. However, it is customary for employers to provide employees with paid time-off to observe nationally and locally recognized holidays. For example, the public holidays widely observed by employers in private industry are: New Year’s Day, Memorial Day (in late May), Independence Day (July 4th), Labor Day (early September), Thanksgiving Day (third Thursday in November), and Christmas Day. Some states require that employees working on enumerated holidays be paid at a higher rate of pay. Similarly, no federal law requires employers to provide employees with paid vacation time. In practice, all employers provide employees with paid vacation time.
6. Employer’s Obligation to Provide a Healthy and Safe Workplace
The Occupational Safety and Health Act (“OSHA”) regulates safety and health conditions in the workplace. OSHA requires employers to provide employees with a safe and healthy place of employment, which is free from recognized hazards (death or serious physical harm). The OSHA regulations govern a wide variety of workplace conditions, and require employers: a) to remedy known workplace hazards; b) to limit the amount of hazardous chemicals workers can be exposed to; c) to use certain safe practices and equipment; and d) to monitor hazards and keep records of workplace injuries and illnesses.