Many New Jersey workers are aware of the basic premise of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). This is the law that requires employers to pay non-exempt employees at least the federal minimum wage for hours worked. Additionally, overtime must be paid for time over 40 hours in the work week. There are details about this law that are often overlooked by employers and employees alike.
One aspect that is often overlooked is that employers are required to record all hours worked. In addition to the actual hours spent performing job duties, employers are also responsible for paying for the time when employees are under their direction or control or acting in furtherance of the employer's interests. For example, if there is a slow period on the job during which the employee is not performing job duties, he or she generally has to still be paid as long as he or she is still on the clock. Since employees are not free to leave during these times, the time is still considered compensable work time. However, there are exceptions.
Meal periods represent one time when employees' rights do not require payment. As long as the meal period is at least 30 minutes, this time does not have to be paid for under FLSA. This includes if employees are restricted from leaving the premises. In other cases, an employee may be relieved from duty and will not have to be paid for this time. This requires the employee to have enough time to participate in personal activities and that he or she will not have to resume work until a certain time. This arrangement is more common with employees who work split shifts.
Employees who believe that they have not been paid according to FLSA requirements may choose to contact an employment attorney. Legal counsel can investigate the situation and, if warranted, pursue the matter with the U.S. Department of Labor which is empowered with enforcement of this federal law.