The Fair Labor Standards Act sets the federal rules for employee time and attendance. You must file a complaint with the Department of Labor's Wage and Hour Division if you think your employer has committed a violation. The DOL will investigate the company and may levy fines or bring criminal charges if the illegal conduct was performed willfully.
Pay Rates and Comp Time
In 2013, the federal minimum wage is $7.25 per hour for nonexempt employees. If you work more than 40 hours in a week, you must receive overtime pay of 1.5 times your regular hourly rate. State law may also require overtime pay for time worked more than eight hours in a day. The employer can define the workweek as any continuous seven days as long as it is consistent from week to week. Federal labor law does not include any requirement to pay overtime for working on a holiday. Private employers may not offer comp time in lieu of overtime. Employees of government agencies may accumulate up to 240 hours of comp time. This limit rises to 480 hours for fire department and law enforcement.
Identifying Exempt Employees
Exempt employees are typically executives and managers who are involved in supervising employees and making decisions for the company. If you are considered exempt, you are paid a monthly or yearly salary instead of an hourly wage. Unlike hourly employees, salaried employees are allowed to accept paid time off as a reward for working extra hours. The extra time is not required by law and is up to the discretion of your employer.
There are no specific guidelines in the FLSA regarding time clocks except that the system used must be complete and accurate. Your employer may round your recorded time up or down to the nearest quarter of an hour, 10th of an hour or five minutes. Employers are required to keep detailed time and attendance records for nonexempt employees, including the employee's name, Social Security number, pay rate, time worked, regular earnings and overtime pay.
The FLSA permits 14- and 15-year-olds to work in nonmining and nonmanufacturing jobs for three hours per day after school and a maximum of 18 hours per week during the school year. The daily limit rises to eight hours on nonschool days with a maximum of 40 hours per week when school is not in session. The act does not restrict the work hours of 16-year-olds, who may work in any job that is not deemed hazardous by the U.S. Secretary of Labor.
Meals and Breaks
No federal laws require an employer to provide meal breaks, but the FLSA defines the parameters of a meal break for companies that voluntarily offer them. You must be relieved of all job duties for the break to qualify as unpaid time off. The company may require employees to stay on the premises during their meal breaks. Breaks of 20 or fewer minutes are considered paid rest periods, not meal breaks.