Violations of federal and Alaska overtime laws were at the heart of a settlement recently reached between Wal-Mart and the US Department of Labor. Wal-Mart, a retail giant, will pay almost 87,000 employees in Alaska and across the nation back pay and interest totaling $33 million.
Wal-Mart has to pay these employees because they did not receive proper overtime compensation. These employees, who often worked long hours, were salaried and held jobs such as manager trainee, programmer trainee, and intern. Although many people believe that no salaried employees receive overtime, that isn’t true. In this case, the employees were what the US Department of Labor ruled as “non-exempt salaried.” When employees are considered “non-exempt salaried,” they should receive overtime pay for hours worked beyond the standard 40 per week.
To determine if federal and Alaska minimum wage laws make a salaried employee eligible for overtime pay, consider their salary. If employees earn under $455 a week ($23,660 a year), then the guidelines created in recent years state that they are entitled to overtime compensation for hours worked above 40 per week.
In fact, an employee can earn more than $23,600 per year and still be eligible for overtime pay. The determining factor is whether the employee has the power to make significant decisions concerning a division, a department, or a store. Usually, managers who are paid a salary have the authority to hire and fire 3 or more employees.
Other claims against Wal-Mart are not addressed in this settlement. This settlement only resolves certain violations that are defined in the judgment. This agreement does not impact any litigation brought against Wal-Mart by private parties, nor does it impact the ability of any worker to file a complaint against Wal-Mart with the US Department of Labor.
Wal-Mart isn’t the first business to try to avoid paying employees overtime. Howard Johnson’s was found guilty of using an approach similar to the one used by Wal-Mart. In the case of the hospitality businesses, “assistant managers” worked long hours for low pay.
Up in the Great White North, workers also get overtime if they work over their allotment of hours per week. Like the national law and many other state laws, Alaska’s overtime law defines it as a work week greater than 40 hours and as a workday as 8 hours. And like many other overtime laws in this land that we’ve talked about, Alaska’s overtime law mandates that employers pay workers who cross these hourly boundaries at the rate of one and a half times their normal wage.
We should look a little closer at Alaska, though. The state has some key exceptions to its overtime law that makes it slightly, if not a good bit, different than other states. For instance, Alaska’s law makes it pretty clear at the outset that the only workers covered are those that aren’t in a supervisory position.
The exceptions go on from there. After a closer reading of the law, we see that any employee who works for an employer with three or fewer employees in the regular course of business is not entitled to overtime.
Also included—or excluded I should say—in the list of people who don’t get overtime include anybody who is involved in agricultural or horticultural jobs. This includes packers, handlers, canners, cheese and butter makers, and anybody else who pasteurizes, dries, or prepares food and plantstuff on their way to market.
Small mining operations don’t have to pay their employees overtime either. Here, the state law defines small for us as a mining operation with no more than 12 people employed. There is a loophole though for the miners. If they work more than 12 hours a day or 56 hours a week for more than 14 workweeks out of the year, then they are entitled to overtime.
There are several other exceptions we could get into, and hopefully in another blog we can touch upon those. For the time being, however, the above exceptions can truly give you a sense for how different Alaska’s overtime law is.
The details of Alaska’s labor laws can be found on the Alaska Complete Labor Law poster alongside all the current federal labor laws.