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The Dirty Dozen Widely-Believed Myths of Wage/Hour

FLSA/Wages
by Stephen Bruce, PhD, PHR

Vacations? Overtime after 8 hours? Double time for holidays? These are some of the many myths of wage and hour that managers adhere to. In today’s Advisor, we’ll dispel a dozen of them.

Myth #1—Employees get extra pay for working nights and weekends.

The Facts: The FLSA does not require extra pay for weekend or night work. This policy is a matter of agreement between the employer and the employee (or the employee’s representative).

The only FLSA extra pay requirement is that covered, nonexempt workers be paid not less than time and one-half the employee’s regular rate for time worked over 40 hours in a workweek.

Myth #2—Employers are required to offer minimum vacation and holiday pay.

The Facts: The FLSA does not require payment for time not actually worked, so periods of time such as vacations, sick leave, or holidays (Federal or otherwise) do not have to be paid. These benefits are matters of agreement between an employer and an employee (or the employee’s representative).

Myth #3—Employees are due a severance payment at termination.

The Facts: There is no requirement in the FLSA for severance pay. Severance pay is a matter of agreement between an employer and an employee (or the employee’s representative).

Myth #4—All employees get morning and afternoon breaks and a minimum of 30 minutes for lunch.

The Facts: The FLSA does not require breaks or meal periods for workers. Some states do have requirements for breaks or meal periods, but if you work in a state which does not require breaks or meal periods, these benefits are a matter of agreement between the employer and the employee (or the employee’s representative), with the exception of breaks for nursing mothers discussed below.

However, even though breaks are not required by the FLSA, if you do give your employees breaks of 5 to 20 minutes, they must be counted as hours worked (and thus paid time). This includes short periods the employees are allowed to spend away from the work site for any reason, for example:

  • Smoke breaks
  • Restroom breaks
  • personal telephone calls or visits, or
  • To get coffee or soft drinks, etc.

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Note, however, that you need not count unauthorized extensions of authorized breaks as hours worked when you have expressly and unambiguously advised the employee that the break may only last for a specific length of time and that any extension of the break is contrary to your rules and will be punished.

Bona fide meal periods (typically lasting at least 30 minutes), serve a different purpose than coffee or snack breaks and, thus, are not work time and are not compensable.

Furthermore, all employers covered by the FLSA must comply with the Act’s break time for nursing mothers provision. Effective March 23, 2010, employers are required under the FLSA to provide unpaid break time and space for nursing mothers to express breast milk for one year after the child’s birth.

Where employers already provide compensated breaks, an employee who uses that break time to express milk must be compensated in the same way that other employees are compensated for break time. In addition, the FLSA’s general requirement that the employee must be completely relieved from duty or else the time must be compensated as work time applies.

Myth #5—Employees are due an annual pay increase.

The Facts: Pay raises are generally a matter of agreement between an employer and employee (or the employee’s representative). The only pay raise required by the FLSA is to raise pay up to the Federal minimum wage.


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Myth #6—Employees are due periodic performance evaluations.

The Facts: The FLSA does not require performance evaluations. Performance evaluations are generally a matter of agreement between an employer and employee (or the employee’s representative).

Myth #7—Double time is due for holiday work.

The Facts: The FLSA has no requirement for double time pay. This is a matter of agreement between an employer and employee (or the employee’s representative).

In tomorrow’s Advisor, the rest of the myths, plus an introduction to the popular tool that insures your supervisors and managers are in compliance with all the laws, HR Audit Checklists.

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  1. Anonymous        
    January 29, 2013 7:26 am

    It really is amazing how many employees have false expectations about holiday pay, vacation pay, and severance. These myths are so dangerous because misinformed employees get angry and can end up pursuing spurious lawsuits that still cost employers.