From retail workers in the big box stores and the local corner flower shop to non-exempt employees in cubicles, hourly workers are the backbone of our economy.
Few hourly retail workers or non-exempt office staff are protected by union benefits, but they do have rights under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). However, many employees are frequently victims of FLSA infractions. As the economy continues to struggle and profit margins continue to shrink, these violations may increase. Whether you are an hourly retail worker or a non-exempt office worker, you should be familiar with the your rights under the FLSA.
The FLSA requires your employer to pay you overtime (OT) pay at the rate of 1.5 times your regular rate if you work more than 40 hours in a work week. Most employees qualify to receive overtime pay. Some employers try to avoid paying OT by using one of these common tactics:
- Telling you that you are not entitled to overtime because you are salaried, even though you are non-exempt from OT.
- Not paying you OT if you are making less than $455 in a 40 hour work week.
- By splitting up OT hours during a biweekly pay period. For example, if you work 50 hours in one week and 30 hours in the next week of the pay period, you are entitled to OT for the 10 extra hours worked in the first week. It doesn’t matter that you are paid bi-weekly.
Meal breaks and work breaks are determined by state law. In Illinois, all non-union hourly and non-exempt employees are entitled to one uninterrupted 20 minute meal break per 7-1/2 hour continuous work day, which must be given no later than five hours after an employee begins work.
Many employers illegally interrupt a meal break with work requests or pressure employees to work off-the-clock through their meal breaks. In 2005, a California jury awarded $172 million to more than 100,000 current and former Wal-Mart workers who were denied lunch breaks or were asked to clock in before their breaks were over.
Illinois has no law for any other break during a 7-1/2 hour work period.
A Day to Rest
Unlike corporate non-exempt employees whose work weeks are usually Monday through Friday, retail workers often work both weekend days. However, through the One Day Rest in Seven Act, all Illinois workers are guaranteed 24 consecutive hours off of work during a 7-day calendar week.