Louisiana Wage and Hour Laws
Louisiana does not have its own regulations governing wages paid and hours worked for adults, therefore the federal wage and hour laws apply to people employed in Louisiana. The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) 29 U.S.C. 201 et seq governs many employment issues such as minimum wage, overtime compensation, and record keeping requirements. The current minimum wage is $7.25 per hour. The FLSA provides that nonexempt employees be paid one and a half times (1.5) their regular rate of pay for hours worked in excess of 40 hours per week. Generally, if a state law does not conflict with the federal law, the state law applies even if it has more stringent requirements. If there is no state law on the subject, then the federal law is applicable. Louisiana law does provide some restrictions on child labor in LSA-R.S. 23:151-258, referred to as the Louisiana Minor (Child) Labor Law.
Exceptions to the Minimum Wage Requirement
There are certain exceptions to the minimum wage requirement such as employees who are apprentices, student employees, new hires under the age of 20, and employees who receive tips in additional to their base wage as compensation.
Exceptions to the Over time Requirement
There are some exceptions to the requirement that employees be paid over time for hours worked in excess of 40 hours per week. Some of these exceptions are for seasonal laborers, agricultural laborers and professional drivers.
Exempt vs. Non-Exempt Employees
Employers often get into trouble in determining whether an employee should be classified as exempt or nonexempt under the Fair Labor Standards Act. If an employee is classified as exempt, it means they are exempt from the requirements of the FLSA. Employers often make the mistake of assuming if an employee is paid a salary rather than on an hourly basis, that they are exempt. Exempt status is not determined by how the employee is paid. Rather, it is determined based on the duties and responsibilities of the employee. The burden rests on the employer to prove that an employee is exempt from the requirements of the FLSA. Exempt employees are sometimes referred to as “white collar” employees and usually fit into several broad categories: executive, professional, and administrative.
In order to qualify for the executive exemption, the executive employee should manage or supervise the business or a subdivision of the business, as well as direct the work of 2 or more full-time employees including the right to hire or fire other employees. The professional exemption applies to those employees whose job duties require advanced knowledge usually acquired through the completion of an advanced course of study in fields such as accounting, engineering and law. The administrative exemption requires that the employee perform office or non-manual work that relates to the management of the employers business. The administrative employee must also have the authority to exercise independent judgment and discretion in the daily operations of the business.
People employed in outside sales, computer and creative fields are also often classified as exempt employees. These determinations are made on a case by case basis and are based on the amount of discretion and independent judgment used by the employees in the completion of their job related duties.
Salaried v. Hourly Worker
As stated above whether an employee is paid a salary instead of being paid on an hourly basis, does not determine whether or not that employee is exempt or nonexempt from the requirements of the FLSA. An additional area where employers often get in trouble is the practice of “docking” a salaried employee’s pay for work time missed. For instance, some employers want to deduct money from an employee’s pay if that employee leaves early or comes in late. The general theory behind a salaried employees rate of pay is that they are getting paid to perform their job duties not to work a certain number of hours per week. Just as they are not entitled to overtime if it takes them longer to perform their job duties, their pay can not be reduced if they work a few hors less in a week.
Employers often violate the FLSA by labeling someone an independent contractor when they are if fact an employee. This determination is made on a case by case basis. The determination is based in large part on whether the employer is directing and supervising the work of the employee/independent contractor as well as whether the employee/independent contractor’s income substantially comes from one employer.
Applying Fair Labor Standards Act to Louisiana Employees
Once an employee is determined to be nonexempt, then all requirement of the FLSA apply to that employee. The FLSA does not limit the number of hours an adult can work. It does provide that an employee must be compensated at the rate of 1.5 times the employee’s regular rate of pay for all hours worked in excess of 40 hours per week.
Determining What Qualifies as Hours Worked
One area that causes problems for employers is determining if things such as travel time, on-call time, break time, meal time, and waiting time are considered as hours worked. Many factors are considered in making these determinations such as if the employee is free to leave the employer’s premises and if the employee can use this time for his own purposes.
Employee’s Rate of Pay
Another area that gets employers into trouble is determining the employee’s regular rate of pay. Some items are statutorily excluded from the calculation such as gifts including Christmas and discretionary bonuses, contributions to profit-sharing plans, and expense reimbursements. Items such as incentive or production bonuses and sales commissions must be included in calculating the employee’s regular rate of pay.
Employer’s Responsibility to Maintain Payroll Records
Employers are required to maintain basic payroll records that include information such as employee’s name, address, birthdate, and social security number. They must also record hours worked each day, the total hours worked each week as well as the employee’s rate of pay, and total wages and deductions from pay for each pay period.
Enforcement of FLSA
The Wage and Hour Division of the U.S. Department of Labor is responsible for the enforcement of the Fair Labor Standards Act. If an employee believes their employer is violating the FLSA, they must file a complaint with the Wage and Hour Division within 2 years of the alleged violation. If the violation is found to be willful, a 3 year statute of limitations may apply.
Remedies and Penalties
If the investigation by the Wage and Hour Division of the Department of Labor reveals that a violation of the FLSA did occur, the employee may be entitled to back pay plus liquidated damages usually equal to the amount of back pay plus costs including attorneys fees. The employer may also be liable for civil penalties if the violations are found to be willful or repeated.
FAILURE TO PAY OVERTIME FOR DAY RATE EMPLOYEES
Under federal law, most workers who work more than 40 in a week are entitled overtime pay. In many instances, employers who pay their workers a day rate don’t pay overtime for hours over 40 hours. In some cases, workers are putting in over 80 hours per week during a given hitch and not getting the time and a half overtime the deserve and federal law requires.
This practice is very common in the oilfield and particularly in jobs such as solids control or mud techs, field engineers, pipeline inspectors, lease operators, service supervisors, pumpers, field coordinators and toolpushers.
If you were paid a day rate and not paid overtime, you may have a claim for wages against your employer or past employer. These claims can be significant and go back as far as three years. They may also include penalties on top of the owed wages.