Wage and Hour Laws

By Joy Rhyne Webb, Attorney at Law

There are hundreds of federal and state laws that are designed to protect workers.  The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) addresses wages, overtime pay and youth employment. The US Department of Labor administers and enforces the FLSA at the federal level. The North Carolina Department of Labor also has a Wage and Hour Bureau that is charged with enforcing the North Carolina Wage and Hour Act, as well as the Controlled Substance Examination Act (sets standards for drug testing of applicants) and the Private Personnel Services and Job Listing Services Act (governs employment agencies).

In general, the Fair Labor Standards Act covers the following areas:

  1. Minimum wage: the minimum wage as of October 2012 is $7.25 an hour. Some states have higher minimum wage levels. In the event of a conflict, the employee should be paid the higher rate.
  2. Overtime: FLSA requires that non-exempt employees be paid overtime at one and a half times their normal wage rate for hours worked over 40 in a work week. Note that a work week is not necessarily a calendar week, but can be any period of seven consecutive 24 hour days.  Overtime is often the source of wage and hour disputes when employees are misclassified.
  3. Hours worked: Exactly how many hours an employee is considered to have worked is often the subject of dispute. The number of hours worked technically includes the hours when an employee is required to be on company property, on duty, or at the specified workplace.
  4. Recordkeeping: Employers are required to keep detailed payroll records. They must also post certain notices as required by law.
  5. Child labor: There are specific requirements related to when and for how many hours per day minors may be employed. The laws differ for agricultural employees. The FLSA also prohibits minors from working at any job that is considered dangerous.

In fiscal year 2012 (ending June 30, 2012), the North Carolina Department of Labor investigated 3,819 North Carolina employers for alleged wage violations, completing a total of 5,152 investigations. The majority of these were resolved without a lawsuit being filed. The US Department of Labor reported 7,006 lawsuits filed in 2011 under the Fair Labor Standards Act. One of the largest settlements this year was awarded to current and former Walmart employees in the amount of $4.83 million in back wages and damages when workers were denied overtime pay.

If you are an employer, it is important to understand not only the Fair Labor Standards Act but also other employment laws that govern how you do business. If you have questions about wage and hour law in Raleigh, Durham or elsewhere in North Carolina, call the employment attorneys at Merritt Webb.

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