How Employment Law Might Help You

What is “Wage & Hour” law? (Hint: It is also sometimes known as “Overtime Law” or “Employment Law.”)

Wage & Hour refers to the laws that require employers to pay their workers at least minimum wage, and a premium rate for overtime.  This law applies to most employees, no matter how they are paid—hourly, by salary, on piece- or trip-rate, and even some employees who work on commission. To learn more about Wage & Hour, watch our Introductory video:


These laws were originally written and made into law in the 1940s in order to protect workers from over-reaching or abusive employers. At that time, employees were made to work for far too long, in unhealthy conditions, and for wages that were far too low.

Today, the federal “Fair Labor Standards Act” and North Carolina’s “Wage and Hour Act” ensure that non-exempt employees are paid at least the minimum wage of $7.25 per hour, and that those who work more than forty hours a week are compensated at a premium rate.

That’s a great start, but unfortunately, there are still areas of Wage & Hour that could use improvement. For example, in North Carolina, employers are not required to give their workers a lunch hour or regular breaks. BUT—if you are on an unpaid break (meaning that you clock-out or otherwise get the time deducted from your shift), the employer cannot expect you to perform work during that time. In other words, you should be paid for any time that you work.

That simple statement contains a lot of legal meaning…and employees may have more benefits than they realize. For example, if your employer asks or requires you to arrive early for your shift, OR if your employer has you clock out before you have finished cleaning up or wrapping up for the day – that is illegal.

You must be paid for all of the work that you do for your employer, regardless of whether that work is done during your assigned shift, or before or after your shift.  If you work from home (but off the clock), and your employer knows about this extra work, then you must be paid for it.

This is true for all hours you work, and it is certainly true for overtime hours.  It is illegal for an employer to avoid paying you overtime simply by saying “I did not approve that work.”  If you do the work, and your employer benefits from you doing extra work, then you must be paid for your time.

Wage & Hour law is complex, and there are always exemptions and exceptions to the rules. For example, many people think that if they are paid a salary, then they are not owed overtime. This is not true. In order to be exempt from receiving overtime, an employee must earn a salary of at least $455 per week, and his or her duties must meet certain legal tests. The salary alone does not make the employee exempt. I discuss more details about Wage & Hour law in other YouTube videos.

If you have specific questions, please check out the W&H section of our website at  If there is a question that I have not answered, feel free to send me an email at, and I will try to record a video to address your question.  And if you believe that you are owed overtime or wages that your employer refuses to pay, and you want to explore your legal options, call HensonFuerst Attorneys at 1-800-4-LAWMED.

If you have questions, HensonFuerst has answers.


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