American workers have fewer rights than workers in many other countries. But the rights provided by the federal government are important.
In addition to North Carolina’s labor laws, employers must also recognize employee rights imposed by federal laws. Workers, especially those just entering the workforce, should know about these five federal employment laws.
Fair Labor Standards Act
The FLSA, enforced by the U.S. Department of Labor, protects over 143 million workers in this country. Independent contractors and, under specific conditions, full-time students and workers with disabilities may be exempt.
FLSA sets a national minimum wage of $7.25. States, however, may set a higher wage.
Hourly workers are entitled to overtime pay of 1½ time their regular rate for any additional hours worked. Hourly workers must be paid for their time worked and salaried employees are paid a consistent amount as full-time employees.
The FLSA requires employers to keep records of time and pay. Workers under 18 are governed by its child labor regulations which, among other things, limit the type of work performed and set age restrictions.
Safety, time off, unions and discrimination
Federal law also covers worker health and safety, medical leave, and discrimination.
The Occupational Safety and Health Act requires employers to have a workplace free of known dangers. Workers have the right to training about workplace hazards and the OSHA standards that address them. The U.S. Department of Labor has authority over OSHA.
Private sector workers have the right to organize unions under the National Labor Relations Act enforced by the National Labor Relations Board. The NRLA also permits workers to talk about workplace problems and share salary information with their co-workers.
The Family and Medical Leave Act requires private sector employees with at least 50 employees and state and local governments to provide 12 weeks of unpaid and job-protected leave for the birth of a child, care of a spouse with a serious health condition or to care for their own serious health condition. The Labor Department also enforces the FMLA.
The Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits job-based discrimination based upon race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, and national origin. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission enforces this law.
Attorneys can help assure that workers receive the protection of these and other federal and North Carolina laws. They may also assist them in commencing legal action and seeking relief for violations.