Labor Law: Minimum Wage and Hour Laws

Labor laws, including wage and hour laws, are laws that govern the wages rates an employer can pay its employees and the hours for which an employer must compensate its employees. The most well-known wage and hour laws are minimum wage laws and overtime laws. They also include child labor laws and meal and break laws. For purposes of this site, we have also included vacation leave, sick leave, holiday leave, jury duty leave, and severance laws with the summaries of other state wage and hour laws, although those laws also fall into the category of Fringe Benefits.

Wage and Hour Labor Laws

Fair labor laws, including wage and hour laws, govern the minimum wages an employer must pay its workers and the time for which they must be compensated. Both commercial businesses and public agencies must follow these workplace laws, including paying a fair minimum wage. The Department of Labor is the regulatory agency that enforces labor laws. Employers who fall out of compliance can be taken to court and face judicial consequences.

The most well-known provisions are minimum wage laws and overtime laws, which specify how much you must be paid for your job. Many of these provisions also control child labor and meals and breaks. For the purposes of this website, we have also included leave laws like medical leave, vacation leave, holiday leave, jury duty leave, and severance laws for each state. However, those labor laws also fall into the category of Fringe Benefits.

Sometimes, these laws differ between state and federal governments. When this happens, employers are required to follow the law that offers the greatest possible benefit to their employees, such as the highest wage or most break time. For more information on these circumstances, see Conflicting Laws.

Federal Regulations

U.S. labor laws are found mainly in the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). The FLSA is a regulation that safeguards employers’ and workers’ rights, governs the minimum wage, and regulates overtime pay. The FLSA also establishes working standards for medical leave, paid leave, jury duty leave, other types of leave, severance pay, and child labor.

These benefits are enforced by the United States Department of Labor, which oversees American labor law. It’s important for employees and employers alike to understand the FLSA to avoid maltreatment and discrimination. In order to learn more about FLSA regulations, including current minimum wages, click here.

State Regulations

Each state determines which wage and hour laws it will adopt. Some states defer to the FLSA. Others extend beyond national law — for example, establishing a higher minimum wage or stricter overtime requirements. Many states have adopted their own minimum wage and overtime laws that all employers should familiarize themselves with. Click to learn more about State Minimum Wage Laws and best practices.

An employer must comply with all the relevant laws as well as the terms of an employee’s contract when it comes to minimum wage, salary, and overtime. If the state or local rules conflict with the national ones, the employer must apply the law that provides the greatest benefit to their workers. For example, when the state minimum wage is higher than that established by the U.S., employers are required to pay more money since it offers the greatest benefit.

Employees should familiarize themselves with these laws to avoid discrimination and mistreatment, and ensure they receive the pay they deserve. Employers must especially be familiar with fair labor laws so that they can keep their workers satisfied, stay in compliance, and avoid legal action.

Fair Labor Laws FAQ

What is the current federal minimum wage?

The current minimum wage is $7.25 unless you are a tipped worker. Tipped workers may be paid $2.13. See Minimum Wage Laws for more info on how much employees must be paid.

What is the current minimum wage in my state?

State minimum wages range from $5.15 to $15.00. As of 2022, the highest state minimum wages are in California, Washington, and Massachusetts, and the lowest state minimum wages are in Wyoming and Georgia.

Some states do not specify minimum wages at all (Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee, South Carolina). In cases when the state minimum wage is lower or unspecified, the federal minimum wage of $7.25 would apply because it offers the greatest benefit to employees.

For information on your specific state’s requirements, visit State Minimum Wage Laws.

When do I get overtime?

The FLSA requires overtime pay of one and a half times when you work more than 40 hours a week. Some exceptions and special circumstances apply. States may also have their own overtime laws that employers must comply with. To learn more, see Overtime Laws.

How many hours can I work per week?

Unless you are under the age of 16 or a student, there is no limit to the amount of time you can work per week under American labor law. Some state or local rules may be different. You should always check child labor laws as well as state laws to ensure your workplace is in compliance.

What is considered full-time vs. part-time employment?

The FLSA does not define full-time vs. part-time employment status. This matter typically falls to state or local entities or to your employer. The protections outlined under U.S. labor law still apply whether you are a part-time or full-time employee.

When do I get a break or meal period?

The FLSA does not require employers to provide employees with breaks or meal periods. Many states, however, do require that employers give a minimum amount of break or meal time for every certain number of hours worked. Visit Meal and Break Laws or the Department of Labor’s official website to see if your state requires a minimum break or meal period.

Below are links to summaries of state wage and hour laws:

AlabamaKentuckyNorth Dakota
ColoradoMichiganRhode Island
ConnecticutMinnesotaSouth Carolina
DelawareMississippiSouth Dakota
District of ColumbiaMissouriTennessee
IdahoNew HampshireVirginia
IllinoisNew JerseyWashington
IndianaNew MexicoWest Virginia
IowaNew YorkWisconsin
KansasNorth CarolinaWyoming

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