Full Time Hours: Texas Labor Law Regarding Part-Time Employment

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A part-time worker in Texas is defined by reference to a full-time employee, so to understand the labor laws regarding part-time work in Texas, it's important to get an understanding of the laws that apply to full-time workers holding down full-time jobs.

Anyone living or working in Texas, including job-seekers, would do well to get an overview of these labor laws.

Federal Fair Labor Standards Act

The starting point for all labor laws in the United States is the federal Fair Labor Standards Act. It sets a minimum standard for salaried workers in all states. Federal protections set wage and overtime requirements, but allow states to increase protections.

Federal laws also protect workers against discrimination. Texas laws generally do not offer greater protection to the state's part-time or full-time workers. The current minimum wage in Texas is $7.25 per hour, which is the same as the federal minimum wage.

The Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 (FLSA) has wide-ranging application since it automatically applies to eligible workers in every state. This legislation specifies that it does not preempt state law completely, rather state governments are given authority to enact their own laws protecting employees as long as these laws do not reduce the minimum standards as set in the FLSA's protections.

Minimum Protections for Workers

Since Texas is not allowed to reduce workers' protections, what can the state legislature do? Examples are useful in this case. The FLSA sets minimum protections in a variety of employment areas, including setting a countrywide minimum wage for workers. This wage currently stands at $7.25 an hour and has not been increased for decades.

Neither Texas nor any other state can enact laws that purport to cut back on this minimum. But state laws offering workers higher minimum hourly wages are enforceable. For example, California has a minimum wage of $16 an hour as of 2023. It is a reflection of Texas' legal climate that it is one of the states that simply uses the federal minimum wage – $7.25 per hour.

Texas labor laws rarely offer more protections than the FLSA. In general, it can be said to be one of the states that leaves most worker protections to the federal government, including minimum wage, overtime protection, and number of hours worked in a week.

Texas Minimum Wage Laws

Minimum wage laws establish a base hourly wage that employers must pay to their covered workers. The FLSA first established a minimum wage in 1938, and Congress has increased this amount several times over the years – the last increase in 2009.

At that point, the federal government raised the minimum wage to $7.25 an hour where it has stagnated since that time. This wage gives a worker who puts in 40 hours a week the same $290 per week in 2023 that it did in 2009, despite the fact that most things are far more expensive.

Most states offer minimum wage protection to their workers that is higher than the federal amount. As of 2023, five states have no minimum wage laws at all, 15 states have minimum wages at the federal level, and 30 states have minimum wages above the federal level.

FLSA/Texas Overtime Protection

In addition to minimum wage, the FLSA contains overtime work protections. Many workers hopefully believe that these laws limit the number of hours an employer can require an employee to work, but this is not the case.

Nothing in the federal law sets a mandatory overtime limit for adult workers. What does this mean? If an employer wants an employee to work seven days a week, 10 hours a day, the federal law does not prevent them from mandating such a work schedule. On the other hand, they will have to pay more to the employee.

The FLSA lets workers and employers negotiate the number of hours that a job requires as part of an employment contract. The Fair Labor Standards Act even allows a company to fire workers who refuse to work the hours demanded.

Meaning of "Overtime"

"Overtime" refers instead to overtime pay, the rate the worker must be paid. Once they put in a workweek of 40 hours in a consecutive seven-day period, the employer must compensate an employee at a higher rate for each additional hour.

Every additional hour in the seven-day work period must be paid at an overtime rate of time and a half. The result is that an employer that requires workers to work seven 10-hour days in one workweek would regularly pay overtime for 30 of those 70 hours.

Texas does not have laws governing the payment of overtime, so FLSA overtime laws apply. Both overtime and regular wages of a minimum wage worker are determined by the minimum wage rate. Those working at the Texas minimum wage of $7.25 an hour will earn $10.88 per overtime hour.

Workers Exempt From FLSA Protections

Since Texas does not have many state worker protections above and beyond the FLSA, it is important to understand that not all workers are covered by the FLSA. "Exempt workers" are not covered, and their jobs are specifically excluded from the protections of the FLSA.

Some refer to those holding exempt positions as "white collar" workers. That makes sense since the four main exemption areas are:

  • Executive employees.
  • Administrative employees.
  • Professional employees.
  • Outside sales employees.

Other exempt jobs outside of these four categories exist, and not all can be considered white collar. These include farm workers and individuals employed by certain seasonal and recreational establishments

Understanding the Exempt Categories

Exempt categories are defined in the Department of Labor regulations. Since Texas uses the same definitions as the FSLA, these same categories of employees are exempt in the state as well. It is important to understand what each category comprises in order to understand FLSA eligibility.

  • ‌​‌Executive:‌​‌ Salaried workers are considered in executive positions if they are in management and have at least two other employees working under them. They cannot spend more than 20 percent of their time doing other work tasks, or 40 percent if they are in retail.
  • ‌​‌Administrative:​‌‌ Employees exempt from the FLSA as administrative workers facilitate business operations, develop management policies or lead administrative training. They have the same work-time ratios as executives and cannot spend more than 20/40 percent of their time on other matters.
  • ‌​‌Professional:​‌‌ These workers are employees offering advanced knowledge, education and training. Professional workers include those employed as artists, certified teachers and computer professionals. Their job duties are primarily intellectual and involve exercising their own discretion and judgment in pursuing assignments. The same 20/40 ratios apply.
  • ‌​‌Outside sales:‌​‌ Workers whose jobs involve making sales or taking orders outside of their employer's main workplace are exempt as outside salespersons. To be in this category, they must spend at least 80 percent of their time doing sales work.

​If a worker's job fits the Department of Labor's definition of one of these positions, they are exempt from both the minimum wage and overtime provisions of the FLSA. Note that exemptions are narrowly construed against the employer that is asserting them.

Laws Against Discrimination

Another federal law, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, was the landmark law that first prohibited employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex and national origin.

In 1967, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act was passed to extend protection against workplace discrimination based on age to people 40 years old and older, and in 1990, the Americans with Disabilities Act extended these protections to individuals with disabilities.

These anti-discrimination laws are enforced by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The same preemption laws apply to this law as to the FLSA. States can increase worker protections against discrimination, but not reduce them. Texas has not done so, and the federal law applies in the state without increased protections.

Employers Liable for Employee Actions

Under these federal laws, an employer can be liable for illegal harassment from the employer itself, but it can also be from a supervisor or even another employee. The employer is held responsible if they were made aware of the conduct and failed to stop it.

An employee can bring a civil lawsuit for harassment, discrimination or creating a hostile work environment, and receive money damages if the suit is successful.

Full-Time vs. Part-Time Workers in Texas

Federal labor laws do not distinguish between full-time and part-time workers. Both part-time and full-time employees in Texas are entitled to be paid for all hours worked. Under both federal and Texas labor laws, private employers in Texas have the right to define full-time and part-time employment as they wish.

What difference does this make? The primary reason for making a distinction between full-time and part-time employment is to identify those employees who are eligible for company benefits.

These benefits are above and beyond those required by federal laws like overtime and minimum wage; they include benefits like sick time, vacation time and holidays.

Employer May Choose to Provide Employee Benefits

Neither federal nor state law requires that workers get time off, paid or unpaid, as vacation benefits, sick leave benefits or bereavement leave. However, if an employer chooses to provide such benefits to full- or part-time workers, it must comply with the terms of its established policy or employment contract.

Most Texas businesses define full-time employment as workers scheduled to work a specified number of hours a week, like 37.5 or 40 hours. Anyone regularly scheduled to work less than full-time is termed a part-time worker.

Since the policy varies from company to company, there is no uniform standard for full-time hours or part-time hours across the state. In one company, full-time employment might be 40 hours per week, while part-time work is less than 40 hours a week. In another company, a full-time worker might be one scheduled to work 35 hours a week.

Guidelines for Public Employees

In Texas, public employees can be considered full time only if they work at least 40 hours per week. There are no such statutory qualifications for part-time workers, so that is anything under 40 hours.

The pay rate for a part-time public employee must be in proportion to the rate authorized by the state's General Appropriations Act for full-time employment in the same classified position. If the position is not included under the state's classification plan, the rate of pay must be in proportion to the rate for full-time employment in the applicable exempt position.

Equal Employment Opportunities

The federal law requires that businesses offer equal employment opportunities without illegal discrimination. Once that is the case, both federal and Texas state laws allow employers to offer different benefits for part-time employees than for those earmarked as full-time employees.

Retirement Plan and Health Care Insurance

Federal law does require a certain standard for pension or retirement benefits to those who work at least 1,000 hours over a 12-month period. And under Texas law, a business with a health insurance plan must offer it to every employee who works at least 30 hours per week.

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