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Labor and Employment Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Numerous issues in labor and employment law affect employees and employers depending on the type of work, the hours worked, and for whom the work is performed.

Knowing your rights as an employee is vital to ensuring that you receive what you are entitled to under the laws. For employers, complying with both state and federal regulations will usually result in better employee morale, and a safe and efficient place to work.

Must an Employer Provide Rest Breaks?

There are no federal laws mandating employers to provide meal and rest breaks, but depending on your state or municipality, some employers are required to provide brief rest or meal breaks. If the employer does give meal breaks, it does not have to pay employees while on break but they must be actual meal breaks. Each state has its own laws regarding employee breaks and pay.

Collective bargaining agreements can also require employers to give rest and meal periods to union employees, and your employment contract might provide for them.

When Can I Collect Unemployment Benefits?

To be eligible for unemployment benefits, you must meet the following:

  • Have earned a minimum amount of wages over a base period
  • Been laid off through no fault of your own
  • Quit due to a hostile work environment
  • Be available and capable of working
  • Be actively looking for work on a weekly basis

Am I Entitled to Unpaid Leave for Medical or Family Reasons?

Under the Family Medical and Leave Act (FMLA), only employees who work for a state agency, a public and private elementary and secondary school, or for companies who employ at least 50 people within 75 miles of the main worksite are eligible to receive unpaid leave for up to 12 weeks in a one-year period.

If you meet these requirements, you must have worked for that employer for at least 12 months or for 1,250 hours within the preceding 12 months. Your leave is conditioned on caring for a newborn child, adoptee, or foster child; giving care to an immediate family member with a serious medical condition; or being unable to work because of a serious medical condition of your own.

How Are Restaurant Workers Paid?

Each state's laws are different, especially if you are a “tipped” employee, such as a waitress or bartender. You must be paid the minimum wage, but most states allow restaurants to use a “tip” credit to count towards the minimum wage so that the waitstaff can be paid less than minimum wage so long as they make at least minimum wage after tips. Otherwise, the restaurant must make up the difference. Restaurants can require their employees to split their tips with front-of-the house employees.

The restaurant must count the hours you spend setting up, cleaning up, in training, and for short rest breaks as hours worked. If the employee works during meal breaks, he must be paid. Employees are also entitled to overtime for any hours worked over 40 per week.