Alabama follows federal laws with regard to many significant labor laws. For example, the state does not have separate wage and hour laws. One exception to this rule is that Alabama has distinct child labor laws. Alabama also does not have a state minimum wage law. Employers subject to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) must pay the current federal minimum wage, which, as of November 2021, was $7.25 per hour.
Wages and the FLSA
The Federal Fair Labor Standards Act is an employment law that governs overtime pay and recordkeeping for government and private sector employees. An employee is due overtime pay at a rate not less than one and one-half times the regular rate of pay after they work over 40 hours in a workweek. A workweek is defined as any fixed and regularly recurring period of 168 hours, seven consecutive 24-hour periods.
The FLSA does not limit the number of hours employees 16 years or older can work in any workweek and does not require overtime pay for work on weekends, holidays or regular days of rest, unless the employee works overtime on those days.
What Are Hours Worked?
Hours worked usually include all the time an employee is required to be on the employer’s premises, on duty or at a prescribed workplace. The term “workday” means the period when an employee starts their principal activity to the time they cease that principal activity. A workday may be longer than an employee’s scheduled shift, hours, tour of duty or production line time.
Work that an employee has not requested but “suffers” to perform is work time for which the employer must pay, such as an employee that continues to work at the end of the shift to correct errors. This time is work time and is compensable.
Waiting and On Call Time
Whether waiting time is hours worked under FLSA depends on the circumstances. If an employee was engaged to wait, that counts as work time. If the employee was waiting to be engaged, that does not count as work time. A firefighter reading a book while waiting for an alarm is an example of an employee being engaged to wait.
An employee who must remain on call while on the employer’s premises is working while on call. An employee who must remain on call at home or who is allowed to leave a message where they can be reached is not working while on call in most cases. If the employer places additional constraints on the employee’s freedom, this could require compensation for the time.
Rest Breaks and Meal Periods
A rest period of a short duration, such as 20 minutes or less, is common in most industries. These short periods must be counted as hours worked, and are usually paid as working time.
An unauthorized extension of a regular work break does not have to be counted as hours worked if the employer has clearly communicated to the employee that the original authorized break may only last for a specific length of time. The employer should also state that an extension of the break is contrary to the employer’s rules, and workers will be penalized.
A bona fide meal break is usually 30 minutes or longer. A meal period does not need to be compensated as work time, but the employee must be completely relieved from duty for the purpose of eating a regular meal. An employee is not relieved from work if they are required to perform any duties, active or inactive, while eating.
Sleeping Time and Other Activities
An employee who must be on duty for less than 24 hours is working even though they may be permitted to sleep or engage in other personal activities when they are not busy. An employee required to be on duty for a full day or more may agree with the employer to exclude from hours worked some sleeping periods of not more than 8 hours. The employer must provide adequate sleeping facilities and allow the employee to usually enjoy an uninterrupted night’s sleep.
An employee’s attendance at lectures, meetings, training programs and similar activities does not have to be counted as working time if four criteria are met: the activities are performed outside normal hours; the activities are performed voluntarily; the activities are not job-related; and the employee is not performing any other work at the same time.
Time Spent Travelling
Whether time spent traveling is compensable depends on the kind of travel involved. Time spent on ordinary home-to-work travel, done before the regular workday and at the end of the workday, is not counted as work time. Time spent traveling to and from a special one-day assignment in another city is work time.
Travel as part of a principal activity, like travel from job site to job site during the work day, is work time and must count as hours worked. Travel that keeps an employee away from home overnight is travel away from home. This time is work time when it cuts across an employee’s workday.
Recordkeeping Requirements Under Federal Rules
An employer must keep certain records for a nonexempt worker. FLSA requires no particular form for the records, but they must contain identifying information about the employee, and the hours and dates they worked. FLSA requires this information to be accurate.
The basic records an employer must maintain include:
- Employee’s full name and Social Security number.
- Birth date, if younger than 19 years of age.
- Time and day of the week when the employee’s workweek begins.
Tracking Hours, Earnings and Wage Computations
The employer must also keep track of the hours the employee worked each day, the total hours worked each workweek, and the basis on which the employee’s wages are paid, such as the employee’s regular hourly pay rate. Further, the employer must record the employee’s total or daily weekly straight-time earnings. Straight-time pay is the total amount of money earned in a set pay period.
The employer must record the employee’s total overtime earnings for the workweek, all additions to or deductions from the employee’s wages, the total wages paid each pay period, the date of payment, and the pay period covered by the payment. An employer should preserve payroll records, collective bargaining agreements, and sales and purchase records for at least three years.
They should keep the records on which wage computations are based, such as time cards, and work and time schedules, for at least two years. Employers may use any timekeeping method they choose, from a time clock to telling workers to write their own times on the records. A timekeeping plan is acceptable if it is complete and accurate.
Alabama Child Labor Laws
Alabama’s child labor laws are found on the website for the Alabama Department of Labor. An Alabama employer who wants to hire a person under 18 is required to obtain the appropriate child labor certificate for each location where people under 18 are employed. An employer must get a Class I child labor certificate to employ 14- and 15-year-old minors.
Employers must get a Class II child labor certificate to employ 16- and 17-year-old minors. They must also obtain an eligibility to work form for each 14- or 15-year-old minor employed. The minor can get these forms from their school.
Employee Information Forms
An employer must keep on premises an employee information form, proof of age and time records to show the number of hours worked each day, start and end time, and break times for each employee 18 and under. Acceptable proof of age includes a copy of a birth certificate, driver’s license or identification card issued by a federal, state or local government agency if the ID card includes the employee’s name and date of birth.
An employer that chooses not to use the employee information form must keep a separate file for each employee 18 and younger that includes the employee’s name, address, telephone number, date of birth, date of hire, proof of age, school of attendance and time records.
- U.S. Department of Labor: State Minimum Wage Laws
- Alabama Department of Labor: Child Labor
- Alabama Department of Labor: Wage and Hour Info
- U.S. Department of Labor: Wages and the Fair Labor Standards Act
- U.S. Department of Labor, Wage and Hour Division: Fact Sheet #22: Hours Worked Under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA)
- U.S. Department of Labor, Wage and Hour Division: Fact Sheet #21: Recordkeeping Requirements under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA)
Jessica Zimmer is a journalist and attorney based in northern California. She has practiced in a wide variety of fields, including criminal defense, property law, immigration, employment law, and family law.