Hourly worker rights you need to know

Last updated: April 25, 2024
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Kai Dickerson
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Hourly worker rights you need to know
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Hourly workers have rights to protect their pay and to set standards for employers around health and safety issues. Know your rights as an hourly worker so you get everything that you are entitled to - and that what you have earned.

Your rights regarding pay

  • You must be paid at least your state’s minimum wage. While the federal minimum wage is $7.25 per hour; if your state’s wage is higher, you must be paid at least that amount. Check the minimum wage in your state here
  • You must be paid for all hours that you have worked
  • After you’ve worked 40 hours in one week, you must be paid an overtime rate for all hours worked over 40 – at least 1.5 times your regular hourly wage
  • You must be paid on time. Each state has its own rules on timing of payment based on the number of hours worked, and how pay periods are defined
  • An employer can not deduct things like background checks, uniform expenses, or drug tests from your pay without written consent

Your rights about breaks and rest periods during shifts

Each state has its own laws about rest times, but most states require a paid rest period of 10 or 15 minutes for every four hours worked. Some states also mandate that an unpaid meal period of at least 30-minutes for every five or six hours worked. Check the laws on break periods in your state here.

Your rights about sick leave

There is no law requiring paid sick leave, although most states require that if an employer chooses to provide paid sick leave, the policy must be applied equally to all employees.

If you meet certain conditions, you may take up to 12 weeks of unpaid time off under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) without losing your job.

**To qualify for FMLA the following criteria must be met: **

  • Work for a company with more than 50 employees within a 75-mile radius
  • Have worked for the same employer at least 1,250 hours in the past 12 months

**Qualifying reasons for workers to take a FMLA absence are: **

  • The birth and care of a newborn child of an employee
  • Placement of a child for adoption or foster care with the employee
  • To care for an immediate family member (spouse, child, or parent) with a serious health condition
  • Medical leave when the employee is unable to work because of a serious health condition

Your rights to a safe workplace

The Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) establishes workplace safety guidelines. These federal laws apply to every workplace.

  • You must receive workplace safety and health training in a language you understand
  • Any machine you work on must be safe
  • Employers must provide personal protective equipment (PPE), such as gloves, helmet, goggles, or a harness and lifeline for falls, as appropriate
  • You must be protected from toxic chemicals
  • You must be able to ask for a federal OSHA inspection and speak to the inspector
  • There must be a way to report work-related injuries or illnesses
  • You have the right to review records of work-related injuries and illnesses
  • You have the right to see results of tests taken to find workplace hazards

Your rights to a clean and sanitary workplace

  • Employers are required to provide potable drinking water to employees. Employees will not have to pay for drinking water
  • Employers must make toilet facilities available so employees can use them as needed. The employer cannot impose unreasonable restrictions on toilet use
  • Workplaces must be maintained by employers to keep rodents and insects out, and if they’re discovered, effective extermination must be implemented

Your rights working in a warehouse

Working in a warehouse often requires operating special types of machinery, like forklifts and small trucks. Employers are required for workers to be OSHA-certified to operate those machines.

  • Employers must have a training program based on the principles of the safe operation of the machines being used in the warehouse
  • Employers must have a training program that addresses the hazards created by the use of the machines being used in the warehouse
  • Trained employee operators must be able to demonstrate safe operation of the machine
  • Employers must certify that each operator has received training and evaluation every three years

Your right to report complaints without retaliation

It is illegal for an employer to fire or otherwise retaliate against a worker for filing a complaint to OSHA and exercising their legal rights.

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Kevin Fuller
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Sous Chef at Sodexo Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital

I have a question need some help people so I worked for a company well none that subcontract work I worked for 1 years 3 training new employee worked 10 hours overtime each weeks went above and beyond then one day i went to work Monday morning and they said we don't need you anymore so I go home and call HR tell them what happened they ask my name and social opon looking her response there is nothing in your file you need verbal or written warning we might need to teach managers how to manage she told me to go back to work went back Wednesday finished on Friday after work HR lady called me and said don't go back being investigated so out for 2 weeks while I'm not working I filled a Case with MCAD 3rd week they say I can't go back to job but can work anywhere else in company 2 weeks went bye didn't find any then they tell me to go to Hospital they have contract with them but I will be working directly for hospital 2 weeks went by got my check says im working for same company so i left do i have a value complaint????

3w
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Anthony Apodaca
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Display And Fixture Resets at Crossmark

Had been with walmart for 3 yrs and became ill with diabetes type 2. I kept working while receiving treatment then started passing out and falling. So management and I agreed on a leave of absence. During leave had to deal with third party disability insurance Sedgwick. This company decides who gets approved for benefits the only thing is nobody gets approved. So after two months Sedgwick approval dept informed me that I was non-compliant the medical report from my Dr. Was not submitted by due date which was incorrect. I contacted them to inform them they made error cause I had already received my approved letter for the month. He responded with a denial letter to my employer which in turn terminated me for non compliance even after I submitted approval letter I had received. I explained to HR management had agreed that I take time to continue treatment and that once ready to return I would have my same job title,pay.ect. well that never happened cause when I returned I was notified I was no longer employed. So I tried the federal leave argument and they stated that was invalid in this situation. What can I do.

35w
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Mike Wittrock
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Warehouse Associate 2 at Midco

Also what about health issues for black mold

3y
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Mike Wittrock
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Warehouse Associate 2 at Midco

What about paid time off for full time hourly employees? Also paid holidays when the business is closed?

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Estenfer Velasquez
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Sales Representative

Thank You for sharing

3y
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Ford Simpson
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Jack of all trades,.master of none

Thanks Kai,the last one about complaining is tricky as the company can fire you for no reason in right to work states.Good quality information as usual, Ford

3y
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