As President Franklin D. Roosevelt once said, all Americans deserve and are entitled to a fair day's pay for a fair day's work. U.S. labor laws like the Fair Labor Standards Act help ensure that U.S. workers earn at least minimum wage and are compensated for overtime hours. Additionally, several other laws help protect the rights of workers with regard to pay, time off and other benefits. However, in order to reap the benefits of most of these employment and labor laws, a worker must be designated as a full or part-time employee.
One of the most common types of employment rights violations is that which has to do with wages. As we discussed in a post last week, wage theft is a significant problem in many workplaces, and it occurs in many ways. One way that a Wisconsin employer might violate the rights of a worker is by failing to pay the proper overtime wage as required by the federal Fair Labor Standards Act.
Many Wisconsin residents may not be aware that overtime wages are governed by the federal government, not their individual employers. Under the Fair Labor Standards Act, full-time and non-exempt workers must typically be paid at least time-and-one-half their regular rate of pay for all hours worked in excess of 40.
Many employment disputes arise not because there are grey issues with employment law itself, but because it is difficult at times to enforce these laws. For example, discrimination in just about any shape or form is illegal in the workplace. This is a very clear cut issue, however, workers do not always know their rights when it comes to discrimination and even when they do it can be difficult to prove their cases and remedy them.
Last week we wrote about whistle-blower law and about how workers who report the illegal or fraudulent practices of their employers generally cannot be retaliated against for doing so. There are other types of situations in which employers cannot respond to an employee's complaint by firing him or her as well, and one such case that involved a Wisconsin man just wrapped up.
Under both federal and Wisconsin state laws, workers must be paid one and one-half times their regular rate of pay for all hours worked in excess of 40 per week. There are a few industries or professions that are exempt from the right to overtime, but the majority of workers here in Wisconsin have a right to time and a half if they are putting in 40-plus hours on the job.
Wisconsin women are protected from pregnancy discrimination under several federal employment laws. In fact, 25 years ago Congress amended Title VII in order to outlaw pregnancy discrimination. Not quite as long ago, back in 1993, the federal Family and Medical Leave Act required employers to provide employees with unpaid leave for certain medical and family reasons, including childbirth. And, finally, in 2010 The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act amended the Fair Labor Standards Act to require employers to provide break time for mothers to pump breast milk for a nursing child.
Last Sunday we all turned our clocks back one hour for daylight savings time. Many employees in Wisconsin who worked the third-shift in manufacturing or worked a night shift as a waiter or waitress worked the extra hour even though their schedule may not have reflected it. Employees and nefarious employers should be aware that the Fair Labor Standards Act requires all hours worked to be paid even during daylight savings time.
Agriculture is an important industry in Wisconsin, and proposed regulations under the Fair Labor Standards Act would limit the ability of youth to work in agriculture. As a result the public is divided over the potential safety benefits the regulations could bring and some family farm practicalities the proposed regulations may impede.