The US Bureau of Labor Statistics defines part-time employees as those who work less than 35 hours per week. Other than that distinction, for the most part the federal government does not distinguish between full-time and part-time employment. In their eyes, all employees are offered the same rights and protections. Following is a list of some of an employee’s core rights.
1. The right to fair compensation for work performed
In 1938, Congress passed the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) to “put a ceiling over hours and a floor under wages” (Senator Hugo Black). The Act established a minimum hourly wage and mandated that employees receive overtime-pay when working more than 40 hours a week. Note that overtime pay is based on a 40-hour work-week, not on whether an employee works more than originally scheduled. That means if a part-time employee is only scheduled to work 20 hours but actually ends up working 30 hours, the employee will still be paid the base hourly wage. The employer is not required to pay them for overtime until they reach 40 hours in a single work-week.
The current federal minimum wage is $7.25 an hour, but states and municipalities are allowed to impose a higher minimum wage for employees in their jurisdiction. As of October 2017, 29 states mandate a minimum wage higher than $7.25 an hour. There is one notable exception, however: employers with tipped employees are allowed to pay a lower base hourly wage, as long as the employee’s base wage and total tips add up to at least $7.25 an hour.
The federal government imposes a floor of $2.13 an hour for tipped employees, but there are 30 states who require a higher base monthly wage. Of those 30 states, California, Nevada, Oregon, Washington, and Alaska set the minimum hourly wage for tipped employees to $7.25, so that tipped employees are guaranteed the same base wage as traditional employees.
Employers cannot require part-time employees to work off the clock, or to put in extra, unpaid hours working from home. If you get paid hourly, you should be compensated for any and all work you provide for the employer. The Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division (WHD) administers and enforces the fair compensation laws for employees. If you believe you are being paid unfairly, you can file a complaint with the WHD here.
2. The right to a safe workplace
The Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) enforces standards governing workplace safety. All employees have the right to a safe workplace, proper training, and the ability to report unsafe work conditions or violations without retaliation. Specifically, you are afforded the right to:
- Be trained in a language that you can understand
- Work with safe machinery
- Be provided with required safety gear
- Be protected from exposure to toxic chemicals
- Request an OSHA inspection and speak directly with the inspector
- Report injury and illness, and receive copies of your medical records
- See copies of the workplace injury and illness log
- Review the records of work-related injuries and illnesses
- Receive copies of test results regarding hazards in the workplace
3. The right to worker’s compensation
Part-time employees who are injured on the job should be eligible for medical treatment and compensation through worker’s compensation. While you are away from work, your employer is required to either hold your job, or to provide you with a new job that matches the compensation and benefits that you received before your injury. If you are denied fair treatment and compensation, or if your employer does not provide you a job with equal pay and benefits when you return, you can file a complaint with the Department of Labor’s Office of Worker’s Compensation Programs (OWCP).
4. The right to a workplace without discrimination
Part-time and full-time employees are offered the same protections against discrimination in the workplace, which are aimed to level the playing field for employees. Employers are prohibited from discriminating based on race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, and disability. These traits cannot be a factor when considering hiring, promotions, compensation, termination, or the terms, conditions, and privileges of employment. These rights are protected by the following federal laws:
- Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964
- The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1964
- The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990
The US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) was created to enforce federal discrimination laws. If you are the subject of discrimination in the workplace and you would like to file a lawsuit in state or federal court, you’ll first need to file a formal complaint with the EEOC.
5. The right to a workplace without harassment
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act also provides protection against sexual harassment in the workplace, especially when the harassment leads to a hostile work environment. Sexual harassment is considered a form of workplace discrimination, and therefore falls under the purview of the EEOC. The EEOC aims to enforce against any forms of sexual harassment in the workplace, but the commission specifically addresses four forms of sexual harassment:
- Unwelcome sexual advances
- Requests for sexual favors
- Verbal or sexual conduct that interferes with your ability to do your job
- Verbal or sexual conduct that creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment
6. The right to protection against employer retaliation
Federal law prohibits employers from retaliating against employees who engage in a protected activity. The EEOC describes a protected activity as:
- Filing or being a witness in an EEOC charge, complaint, investigation, or lawsuit
- Communicating with a supervisor or manager about employment discrimination or harassment
- Answering questions during an employer investigation of alleged harassment
- Refusing to follow orders that would result in discrimination
- Resisting sexual advances, or intervening to protect others
- Requesting accommodation of a disability or for a religious practice
- Asking managers or coworkers about salary information to uncover potentially discriminatory wages
Employees who participate in an EEOC complaint are protected from retaliation in all circumstances, even those not listed above. Broadly speaking, any actions to oppose discrimination can be considered protected activities as long as the employee acted in good faith and had a reason to believe something in the workplace is illegal.
7. The right to reasonable accommodation for disabilities
As long as an individual is qualified for and can perform the essential functions of a job—with or without reasonable accommodation—an employer cannot discriminate against them due to disability. Federal law defines a disability as:
- A physical or mental impairment which substantially limits one or more major life activities
- A record of such impairment
- Being regarded as having such impairment
Part-time employee benefits
While part-time employees are afforded these essential employee rights, the federal government leaves employee benefit regulations up to states and private companies. Because of this, part-time employees rarely enjoy company benefits. Many part-time employees do not qualify for health insurance, paid vacation, paid sick leave, paid holidays, and unemployment compensation. Unfortunately, if the state does not have any laws regulating employee benefits for part-time employees, it’s up to the company to decide what benefits their part-time employees are entitled to.
Need Help With An Employment Law Issue?
The state of Arizona is a great place to live and work, but knowing the employment laws will help you a lot. Whether you are a newcomer to the state or a lifelong resident, understanding your workplace protections is good for your career, and the more you know, the better.
Employment law issues can cause extreme distress and can affect productivity on the job. If you are being harassed at work, or dealing with any other employment issue, consider talking to our AZ employment law team to help you settle your case.
Call our Employment Law team at (480) 464-1111 to discuss your case today.
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