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What are U.S. wage and hour laws?

The vast majority of U.S. adults must work to put food on the table and provide for their families. Yet, for millions of Americans, unfair labor practices carried out by an employer rob them of protections afforded under wage and hour laws.

Currently, the federal minimum wage is set at $7.25 per hour. In most places around the country, this hourly wage alone isn't sufficient to provide for one's own basic needs much less those of a family. Problems related to insufficient wages are often exacerbated by employers who fail to pay employees minimum wage and overtime wages.

Under the provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act, employers are required to keep accurate and updated records related to employees’ wages and the number of hours worked. For non-exempt employees, an employer must provide one and one-half times an employee's hourly pay rate for every hour worked over the 40 hour per week maximum.

The following examples of compensable work time are frequently misclassified as non-compensable time by employers and can therefore lead to violations of federal wage and hour laws:

• Overtime worked by an employee to finish assigned work tasks or correct errors
• Idle or wait time while at work
• Time allocated for rest or meal breaks of up to 20 minutes
• Work-related travel or travel related to special work assignments

Employees who believe an employer is in violation of wage and hour laws may choose to discuss their concerns with an attorney. In cases where an attorney determines violations have occurred, he or she can work to help an individual gain fair compensation and recover back wages.


Source: U.S. Department of Labor, "Wage and Hour Division," 2014

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