3 Little-Known Rights of Part-Time Workers
Understanding your rights is always important, especially if you are a part-time worker. If you think your employer is violating your rights, contact your state's department of labor.
Health and Safety
While employers generally are not required to provide health insurance to their part-time employees, they do have some obligations. Employers may have to pay for any medical treatment stemming from work-related injuries or illnesses, and they may have to pay additional compensation in some cases. They are also required to provide a safe working environment that follows the guidelines laid out by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, including providing adequate safety training and personal protection equipment. Injuries and accidents involving part-time employees are also subject to the same reporting laws.
Overtime Pay, Unemployment and Wage Protection
Part-time employees are covered by the Fair Labor Standards Act, a federal law that lays out basic labor laws. This means part-time employees must be paid at least minimum wage. If there is a busy week at work and you are scheduled for more than 40 hours in that week, you are entitled to overtime pay.
Part-time workers are also sometimes asked to pay for required uniforms or to make up for short cash drawers or missing merchandise. However, this practice is forbidden under the FLSA if the employer reduces the hourly rate to lower than minimum wage. If you earn a tipped wage, such as from being a server in a restaurant, you still must make at least the nontipped minimum wage. Your employer is required to make up the difference if you do not earn enough tips.
Losing your job can be a huge problem, especially for people scraping by on a part-time income. Employers are generally required to carry unemployment insurance, which helps pay benefits for a short time to help keep their employees from struggling too much while they find another job. Most people think only full-time employees are covered, but part-time employees are also eligible. There may be additional restrictions depending on the state.
Additional State Protections
While federal protections for part-time workers are generally fairly minimal, many cities and states have passed much stricter protections. San Francisco, for example, requires employers to create and post work schedules at least two weeks in advance. Many states also have higher minimum wages than the federal minimum wage, and some require employers to provide part-time employees with paid sick leave and other benefits.
Employers are increasingly relying on part-time employees, especially in retail and other service industries. Although the flexible schedule is nice for many people, there are also significant drawbacks to working part-time, such as not being covered by many state and federal labor laws. However, part-time employees do have some surprising rights as well. If you work part time, make sure you know what protections are in place.