Federal employment law covers a wide range of statues that include things like family and medical leave and the Equal Pay Act. It’s certainly not an area to wade into for the faint of heart. Federal employment law, although complicated, is there to protect YOU while employed in the workforce.
The most important piece of federal employment law that would apply to you would be the Fair Labor Standards Act. You might know this bit of federal employment law as the “Wage/Hour Law”. Basically it has four components to protect you: minimum wage requirements, overtime requirements, child labor regulations, and equal pay provisions.
As federal employment law goes, this is a fairly straightforward act (29 USC 201) and lays out things in a relatively clear manner. It is likely one of the first things you should read pertaining to federal employment law when you get hired for a job.
Federal employment law dictates pay is required at one and a half times the hourly rate, for anything over 40 hours in any work week. There is an exception to this, and that applies to employees who do work considered exempt from overtime – meaning professionals. For instance a lawyer, doctor, accountant, teacher etc. – people in an intellectual profession. Or, they must be working mostly as a manager or supervisor, performing work of a high-level executive/administrative nature or an outside sales rep.
As you might have guessed already, there are a lot of exceptions in a variety of areas. This is made even more complicated thanks to the fact that some industries lobbied for exceptions to the minimum wage/overtime requirements. When in doubt, call you local Wage/Hour office and find out if you are in one of these industries. You can also ask them for a full text of Department of Labor regs.
If you have kids that are of an age to be working, you should also make yourself aware of the laws relating to them. Generally speaking, child labor provisions says those under 18 cannot work more than 20 hours a week when school is in session. There are other provisions relating to dangerous machinery and equipment. Does your child work for you on a family farm? If that is the case, then you might need a work certificate. Call the Wage/Hours office and they’ll walk you through what you need to be on the right side of federal employment law.
If you have any complaints about how you have been paid, you may register a complaint with the Department of Labor or file your own action in Federal Court. If successful, you could recoup lost wages for any where from 2 to 3 years.