There seems to be a lot of confusion about when employees should be paid, how much, and when. At least that's the impression one gets by the number of pending lawsuits outstanding in wage claims.
Judging from these lawsuits, it appears that either employers are not sure how to apply the employment laws as they stand or they are preying on the vulnerable to circumvent these laws. While employers are expected to make some mistakes, they do come at a cost to both the paid and the payers. Unfortunately, the most vulnerable are those who work in hourly paid positions, women, and children.
As I tell women in my financial ed classes, our job as citizens is to educate ourselves about our rights. No one expects anyone to know anything in depth. The goal here is to acquire basic knowledge to protect ourselves.
Why do most people get conned? Because they don't know where to go for information. With respect to employment laws, your first line of defense is the Department of Labor (www.dol.gov). The Wage and Hour Division covers most laws that protect the rights of workers. Under the FSLA (Fair Standards Labor Act), the department monitors employers to make sure they abide by two major laws: minimum wage and overtime pay. Both private and public companies are expected to pay their employees at the federal minimum wage. I say at least because the government sets a minimum wage that every state is required to pay, although individual states and local governments can pass their own rates so long as they are equal to or greater than the federally mandated rate. As for overtime, businesses are expected to pay their wage workers time and a half above their pay for any hours worked over 40 hours. As the law stands, salaried employees are not entitled to overtime pay. The FSLA also covers employment laws for children as well.
Another important law that applies for families in general is the FMLA (Family Medical Leave Act). This law covers salaried employees whenever a medical emergency arises or women and their partners (recently that includes same-sex partners) during maternity leave up to a 12-week period. Now, keep in mind that there are exceptions under the FMLA, and you really need to read up on the law and its guidelines to benefit from it. Don't just take the information from HR for granted. Familiarizing yourself with the act will ensure that you take the required leave and get paid adequately for it. No joke, my sister was working for the Payroll Department for about a decade when she went to use the FMLA after having her first child. She was misinformed about the law and its application and eventually took time off she was never reimbursed for. She relied on second-hand knowledge passed on to her by the "experts" at a governmental agency she was working with. Yes, I know.
So protect yourself. Visit the Department of Labor's site and arm yourself with your rights. When in doubt, call the Department or ask and ask again until you're satisfied with the answers.
Visit the site to learn more: http://www.dol.gov/compliance/laws/comp-flsa.htm#factsheets