Labor Laws for Part-Time Workers

By Jill Stimson
Federal law does not define employees who only work part time.
clock image by Elena Nabokova from

The Department of Labor (DOL) regulates labor laws for covered employees. The DOL's Wages and Hours Division enacted the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). The FLSA sets the minimum work standards that states must follow. Each state is free to enact more stringent labor laws for employers to follow in each jurisdiction. Employers subject to federal laws are those that provide services or sales exceeding $500,000 per year in interstate commerce.

Summary of FLSA and State Law

The FLSA does not provide employers with a definition of what part-time employment entails. Instead, the DOL leaves it up to each employer and employee to agree upon whether the employee is a full-time or part-time employee. All employers are required to follow federal laws, regardless of hourly employment status.

Pay Periods, Minimum Wage and Required Overtime Compensation and Pay Raises

All employers must pay at least $7.25 an hour to its employees. Employers must pay at least a time-and-a-half for overtime pay over 40 hours weekly. The FLSA does not regulate pay raises or other fringe benefits employers must provide its employees.

Vacation, Holiday and Sick Leave

The FLSA does not require employers to pay employees for any time the part-time employee does not work. There is no federal requirement for employers to pay employees fringe benefits for paid time off. Each state may require its employers to pay for time not worked. Additionally, employers are free to provide paid leave to its employees voluntarily, based upon hours worked. Therefore, many employers provide paid leave for full-time employees only. However, employers are required to allow all employees to exercise leave, unpaid, to take care of the employee or the employee's family members who are ill. Although full-time employees may exercise up to 12 weeks per year under the Family and Medical Leave Act's allowable leave time, the employer may reduce the employee's allowable leave using a pro-rata reduction for part-time employees. The employee can exercise it at once or intermittently.

Meals and Breaks and Weekend or Night Shift Pay

The FLSA does not require employers to provide paid meals and break periods. A few states, such as California, may set its own standards for paid lunch breaks. Employers do not have to pay extra for night-shift or weekend shift work. However, the employer must follow the overtime rules for hours in excess of 40 hours weekly. Employers are also free to change employee's scheduled hours without notice or consent under federal laws, unless the employee is under 16.

Severance Pay and Termination

There is no requirement for employers to provide any severance pay. Similarly, there is no requirement for any termination notice before laying off employees. Note, however, the WARN Act mandates notice for specialty employees before layoff. WARN protects federal employees from plant closings through the Worker Readjustment and Retraining Notification. Under WARN's rules, employers with at least 100 employees must provide at least a 60-day written notice of impending job layoffs. The layoffs must be massive or affect at least 50 workers at one site.