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If you are an employee earning an hourly rate, many of your rights are defined by wage and hour laws. These are set up, to begin with, at the federal level. The Fair Labor Standards Act was put into place to ensure that employees get fair treatment all across the United States. It does things like setting up a minimum wage of $7.25 per hour and giving you the right to overtime pay —- at time and a half of your normal pay -— if your job is eligible. Often called the FLSA, this is one federal act that you definitely want to know about.
Now for one of the most surprising facts about Alabama's wage and hour laws: There is no state-level minimum wage. Other states have wages that are both above and below the federal level, but Alabama has nothing at all. However, do not let your employer tell you that this means that he or she can pay you any amount. Employers have to follow the federal laws and pay a minimum wage of $7.25 an hour.
In some cases, there may be a minimum wage on the local level, such as one set by a city or a county law. If there is, and if it is higher than the federal wage, that amount must be used. If it is lower than the federal wage, by any amount, then the federal wage has to be used. This principle is to be used any time two laws on different levels do not match up. The law that is deemed to be more desirable for the employee is the one that goes into effect.
One issue that may arise from the lack of a minimum wage is that tipped employees are not sure how much they should earn. According to the FLSA, an employer can pay a tipped employee an hourly rate that is under the federal minimum. In some places, for instance, employers only pay $2.13 an hour. Tips are then used and averaged out with the hourly rate to get up to the minimum wage. In Alabama, an employer can pay you less than the minimum, but not if your tips don't get you to the minimum. When you average less than $7.25 per hour, your employer than has to increase your wage to get the average up to that level.
As you may have guessed, Alabama has never passed any laws regarding lunch breaks or rest breaks. This means that your employer can choose to give them to you or not. The only legal right you have regarding breaks is that you have to be paid for your time, even if it is considered to be a “break,” if you also have to work. For example, if you are eating lunch and your boss tells you to answer the phone or do paperwork, he or she then also has to pay you.
Finally, the overtime rules in Alabama also fall under federal jurisdiction, as there is once again no state law. This means time and a half pay when you go over 40 hours, as mentioned above, if your job is eligible for overtime pay.
This article is intended to be helpful and informative. But even common legal matters can become complex and stressful. A qualified wage and hour lawyer can address your particular legal needs, explain the law, and represent you in court. Take the first step now and contact a local wage and hour attorney to discuss your specific legal situation.