Working during the holidays? Know your rights

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WASHINGTON  - This time of year, many people hold temporary or part-time jobs helping retailers and other businesses with the heavy demands of the busy holiday shopping season. It's a great opportunity to gain valuable work experience, get a foot in the door for long-term employment or just earn extra cash.

Workers not familiar with this type of short-term arrangement may have questions related to their employment. Here are answers to some most of the frequently asked questions we receive, and additional resources for more information:  

How many hours is part-time employment? How many hours is full-time employment?

The Fair Labor Standards Act, which is the governing federal labor law here, does not define full-time employment or part-time employment. That is a matter generally to be determined by the employer.

Am I entitled to overtime pay?

In all likelihood, yes. Most workers in this country, particularly in retail, are employed by businesses covered by the FLSA. That means that they are entitled to at least the federal minimum wage, which currently stands at $7.25 per hour, though some states and localities have higher minimum wage rates. Such workers are also entitled to overtime pay at a rate not less than one and one-half times their regular rate of pay for hours worked beyond 40 in a workweek. This is true regardless of whether the employee is considered a temporary worker or a permanent hire. In some instances, however, certain retail or service employees who are paid by commissions could be exempt from overtime pay.

Are there restrictions for teens working during the holiday season?

Federal law says that the minimum age for work in retail, at an office, grocery store, restaurant or movie theater is 14. In general, 14- and 15-year-olds can only work during non-school hours and no more than three hours on a school day, including Fridays, and 18 hours total in a week. On weekends, holidays and school breaks, however, they can work eight hours a day and up to 40 hours in a week. And though the law is more permissive during the summer, they can only work between the hours of 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. during the school year.

Federal law does not limit the number of hours or times of day for workers 16 years and older, but many states have enacted more restrictive labor laws and have higher minimum standards that must be obeyed. It's important to note that workers under 18 are limited in what they can do and must not be placed in hazardous occupations or given certain tasks deemed hazardous. Check out the YouthRules! website to learn more.

If you still have questions and want to learn more, please refer to our Holiday Season Employment Information Guide. You can also check out our website, or call 1-866-4US-WAGE.

Best of luck on the job, and happy holidays!

Laura Fortman is the principal deputy administrator of the Wage and Hour Division of the U.S. Dept. of Labor. This article by her appears on her blog called Work in Progress and was sent to the PW by the Department, which gave permission to reprint it here.

Photo: The holiday shopping season is in full swing, including at Westfield Garden State Plaza mall (pictured) in Paramus,  New Jersey. Official shopping mall website.

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