ZIGARELLI. CAN THEY DO THAT?: EMPLOYEE WAGES
Mary Anne knew that bagging groceries wasn't her true calling, but she needed the money for college and she
had few job choices. After receiving her first paycheck, she noticed the number 4.25 in the "Hourly Rate"
column. Being a perceptive teen, she recognized the error and politely pointed out to the store manager that
minimum wage was now $5.75 an hour. Her manager just chuckled, folded her arms, and said, "Listen, honey.
When you're worth $5.75, you'll get $5.75. Now get back to work!"
Money is the primary reason most Of us work. We have to pay the mortgage, buy food and clothing, put gas in
the car, and purchase a million other things. We'd even like to buy a luxury now and then. The last thing we
need after putting in our time is a complication with our paycheck.
Employers can easily exploit their employees' dependency on pay. They may dock your wages, they may refuse
to pay you for unproductive time, or they may pay you less than they pay someone else simply because Of your
race or gender. Pay is an important source of power for employers and we would like to ensure that this power
Many wage and work hour laws have been passed in the United States but the most significant one, enacted by
Congress in 1938, is the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). The Act set the minimum wage and overtime
premium, regulates child labor and guarantees that men and women will be paid equally for equal work. The
basics of the FLSA and of other wage laws are discussed here.
Before considering how the FLSA works, an important first question to ask is "Does the law apply to me?"
Usually, the answer is yes, but there are several exceptions. Almost all employers, state and local governments
as well as private employers, must abide by the provisions of the FLSA. In fact, the law is currently designed to
cover as many employers as possible. However, local businesses (technical definition: those who gross less than
$500,000 a year or who do less than $50,000 in interstate business) are not covered by the FLSA, but instead by
state regulations. In practical terms, this means that they can ignore the federal minimum wage standard, the
overtime premium, and other provisions of the FLSA, but they still must comply with similar laws passed by
their state government.
Even if your employer is covered by the FLSA, you may not be.
You've probably heard the terms "nonexempt employees" and "exempt employee" around your workplace.
These terms refer to whether a particular worker is covered (nonexempt) or not covered (exempt) by the FLSA.
Generally, most blue-collar employees and most pink-collar employees (for example, clerical, waitresses) are
covered by FLSA whereas most white-collar employees are not.
In particular, the FLSA does not apply to "executives" (those primarily engaged in management and who