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If You Have Employees, Make Sure You Understand the FLSA

As a business owner, it seems that you often have to wear multiple hats and be an expert on more laws than a business lawyer does. That’s especially true when dealing with the laws having to do with employees. Any business that employs others should have a good employment lawyer at the ready, but even without one handy, there are laws that every business owner should have a general awareness of to avoid problems.

The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA)

One major law that employers need to be wary of is the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). The FLSA mandates, among other things, that employees be paid at least minimum wage for all hours they work in a 40-hour workweek, and time and a half for any hours that go over the 40-hour limit.

Even salaried employees are covered; it’s no defense to fail to pay overtime to an employee because their salary “covers their job, no matter how many hours their job may take.”

Compliance may seem obvious, and easy. But it’s sometimes more difficult than it seems.

In many cases, business owners are faced with the overly ambitious employee, who may work more than 40 hours a week seemingly “voluntarily.” The employee may legitimately want to “get the job done,” and stay as late as needed to help the company.

Unfortunately, voluntary hours aren’t exempt from the FLSA. Even workers who voluntarily work extra hours need to have those hours accounted for and be paid overtime if the hours exceed 40 weekly.

In many cases, employees can work when they’re not working. For example, many employees must carry cell phones, and answer calls or emails, even during lunch breaks or weekends. Whenever the employee is available for work and is required to be responsive, the FLSA may mandate that the employee is working for the purpose of counting hours.

Exemptions & Tipped Employees

There are a whole host of exemptions from the law, too numerous to list here. Some include executive or professional positions, and salespeople or commissioned employees. Still, you should get a legal opinion before assuming an employee is exempt.

Also be aware that tipped employees aren’t exempt from the law. You may be able to pay them less per hour to compensate for tips, but the hourly total still needs to be taken into account. And there is a tip credit formula that the law uses—you can’t count 100% of an employee’s tips towards their minimum wage requirement. Tip pools can be used, so long as nobody gets any portion of the tips that isn’t ordinarily a tipped employee.

There can be severe penalties for violating the FLSA, including multiple damages, and attorney’s fees. Make sure, if you have employees, that you’re in compliance with employment laws.

Protect your business from unforeseen lawsuits and liability. Contact Tampa business attorney David Toback to discuss your needs and make sure your business is operating safely and in compliance with state and federal laws.

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