Federal vs State Labor Laws

 In Employment Law, Overtime Law, Wage Law

Federal Labor Laws vs State Labor Laws and Why the Difference Matters

Protecting the legal rights of employees is complicated. One of the biggest complexities involves the overlap of federal labor laws and state labor laws. Generally, when a state’s labor laws are more protective of workers’ rights, then the state law will control for workers in that state.

Take, for example, the difference between state and federal law with respect to whether employees should be paid for their time waiting in security check lines. Imagine, as a hypothetical, at the end of your shift, you must wait for a security personnel or a manager to check your bags and/or belongings as a theft prevention measure. Or maybe you have to wait in line before starting your shift for some sort of medical or safety screening and/or testing. Should employees get paid for that wait time? Here, at Herrmann Law, we think that employees should be paid for ALL of their time, including time spent waiting at security or screening check points. But that is not the case in all states or under federal law.

Under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”), as interpreted, employees are typically NOT entitled to be paid for waiting time at security checkpoints. This is because the US Supreme Court has ruled that employees are entitled to payment ONLY for work that is integral and indispensable to their job duties. So, if a worker’s principal duties involve serving food and drinks or cleaning and maintenance, likely, such workers are unable to legally demand compensation for waiting time at a security checkpoints because security screening is not integral to their job duties.

By contrast, some states — like California — use an “employer control” test to evaluate whether waiting time is compensable. In simple terms, if an employee is under the “control” of an employer, then the employee must be paid for that time. Thus, when a security check or safety screening is required and conducted by the employer, employees must be paid for the time involved in waiting and conducting the screening. Pennsylvania is another state with labor laws and regulations similar to those in California. See In re Amazon, Inc., Case No. 43 EAP 2019 (Pa Supreme Court 2020) (“all time spent by the employees waiting to undergo, and undergoing, the security screenings constitutes “hours worked” within the meaning…” of Pennsylvania labor laws and regulations). Similar cases have been decided under New Jersey and New Mexico labor laws.

In other states, the question of paying employees for wait time and other pre-clock-in and post-clock-out activities revolves around whether the activity is necessary for the job duties performed. Thus, in Wisconsin, a few years ago, Hormel was required to pay their workers for the time spent putting on and taking off employer-mandated safety clothing and equipment because said clothing/equipment was central to maintaining the safety and purity of the food being processed. See media report here.

From just these few examples, it can be seen that vindicating the rights of workers is legally complex. As such, you need talented and proven legal representation.

Call the Employee Rights Attorneys at Herrmann Law Today

For more information, call the Employee Rights attorneys at Herrmann Law. If you think that your employer has violated your rights as an employee, it is essential to consult and retain experienced employee rights attorneys who are experienced advocates for workers rights. We are proven, experienced, employee-focused attorneys representing workers across the United States in all types of workplace disputes. Use our Online Contact page or call us at (817) 479-9229.

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