FAQs on Wages & Benefits

Wages, benefits, pension plans, 401(k) plans and severance agreements can be some of the most important, and complicated issues employees deal with. It is important to understand what you are being offered, how it can affect your future and what can happen if that security is pulled out from under you.

What are common violations of wage-and-hour laws?

  • Not paying minimum wage
  • Paying trainees or disabled workers less than other workers
  • Failure to pay overtime
  • Forcing workers to put in hours off-the-clock
  • Wrongly classifying workers to avoid paying overtime and/or certain benefits
  • Deducting more for tips than allowed
  • Excessively deducting for wages customarily paid in kind, such as meals or housing

What are my rights to overtime pay?

Federal law requires that most employees receive overtime pay for any time worked over 40 hours in any workweek. The rate of overtime pay is one-and-one-half times the employee's regular rate of pay. Eligible employees may not waive their right to overtime pay.

Exempt vs. nonexempt

The Fair Labor Standards Act governs certain aspects of wage and hour laws for nonexempt employees, who fall within the scope of the Act. These workers benefit from the FLSA's minimum wage and overtime requirements.

Exempt employees, however, may not be eligible for overtime and other benefits of the FLSA, such as administrative, professional, executive, outside sales, and other types of white-collar workers. Other types of exempt employees include some computer personnel, certain highly compensated individuals, some agricultural workers, apprentices, babysitters, some workers with disabilities and particular other types of employees.

What rights do I have for family and medical leave?

An FMLA-covered employer must provide eligible employees with a maximum leave of 12 weeks. The leave may be unpaid or combined with employer-provided paid leave, such as vacation or sick leave.

The FMLA allows leave for:

  • Birth, adoption or foster placement of a child
  • Care of a spouse, parent, minor child or incompetent adult child with a serious health condition
  • Your own serious health condition

Broadly speaking, a serious health condition is an illness, injury, impairment, or physical or mental condition that involves:

  • Inpatient care and subsequent related treatment
  • Incapacity requiring continuing treatment
  • Pregnancy
  • Treatment for a chronic illness, ongoing or episodic
  • Permanent or long-term incapacity
  • Multiple treatments

You may be required to provide advance notice or medical certification of your need for leave. An employer who provides health insurance is required to maintain your coverage while you are on leave.

Under most circumstances, when you return from FMLA leave you are entitled to your former job or its equivalent with the same employment terms. However, different provisions apply to key employees who hold certain highly compensated salaried positions.

What rights are available to military service members?

U.S. military personnel, including reservists and members of the National Guard, are often called for tours of duty or periods of training during which they must leave their civilian jobs. This raises issues of re-employment and continuation of medical coverage and other employment benefits. An attorney with experience in employment law from Employment Law Office of John H. Haskin & Associates, LLC in Indianapolis, IN, can advise you about your employment rights as a member of the armed services.

The federal Uniform Services Employment and Reemployment Act (USERRA) creates re-employment and continuing-benefit rights for military personnel. USERRA applies to private employers and to state and local government employers. With some variation, employees of the federal government are also protected.

You can lose your USERRA rights if your military service was under less than honorable conditions.

Re-employment

With a few exceptions, military service members are guaranteed re-employment in their civilian jobs after returning from active duty or training. In certain situations, such as the elimination of your job or difficult employer circumstances, you may be placed in a different but comparable job with similar salary and benefits.

Service members must give appropriate notices of military deployment to their employers and must reapply for their jobs within specific time frames. If an employee incurs or aggravates a disability during a military leave, USERRA has detailed employer requirements for disability accommodation and retraining.

Other major provisions:

  • You have the right to use accrued vacation during your military leave, but you cannot be forced to do so.
  • With some exceptions, you can be deployed up to five years before you lose your right to re-employment.
  • If you were deployed 181 days or more, your employer cannot fire you after re-employment for at least one year without appropriate cause.
  • A long military absence can cause a loss of job skills and you may be entitled to additional training.
  • Medical insurance and other benefits

Under USERRA, if military leave would result in the termination of an employee's health coverage, the employer must allow the employee to continue coverage at his or her own cost, usually for up to 24 months. This normally includes not only medical coverage, but also vision, dental and prescription coverage, and certain other flexible payment and reimbursement arrangements. With some exception, similar rights to continued coverage during military leave are preserved by the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA).

Upon your return, you have the right to medical coverage from your employer as before deployment, without waiting periods or pre-existing condition exclusions. However, your employer is not required to cover medical injury or illness sustained in active duty.

Pension rights and vacation should continue to accrue during military-service leaves. Similarly your vesting and accrual rights under certain retirement plans should not be interrupted. Military leave should count toward time worked for purposes of your right to family and medical leave.

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The Employment Law Office of John H. Haskin & Associates, LLC, is located in Indianapolis and serves clients throughout Indiana. For more than three decades, we have successfully represented employees in legal disputes with their employers. Our attorneys only represent employees, never employers.