The following are some frequently asked questions that we receive here at the Labor Department. They are compiled by topic in order to make your search easier.
Q. I was fired from my job for no good reason. What can I do?
A. Arkansas recognizes the doctrine of “employment at will”. This means that, as a general rule, either the employer or the employee may end the employment relationship at any time for any reason or for no reason at all. There are, however, a number of exceptions to this general rule under state and federal law. For example, state and federal law prohibit an employer from firing an employee on the basis of age, sex, race, religion, national origin, disability or genetic information. Also, a woman cannot be fired because she is pregnant or has had an abortion. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission administers the federal discrimination laws.
If a collective bargaining agreement, or union contract covers an employee, that agreement will typically provide some protection against arbitrary termination. Federal law provides some protection in the areas of garnishment and wage withholding. The federal Family and Medical Leave Act provides certain employees with up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave per year for certain family and medical reasons. State law may also provide a legal remedy when an employee has relied on a written promise that he will be terminated only for cause or for good reason, and was subsequently terminated arbitrarily. Additionally, state law may provide protection where an employee is fired in violation of a clear public policy. This would include employees discharged for such things as refusing to break the law; serving on jury duty; obeying a subpoena; or reporting a suspected violation of state or federal law. There are also a number of “whistle-blowing” laws.
This is a changing area of the law and any answer is very dependent on the facts in any given circumstance. As a result, it is wise to consult an attorney with respect to any specific situation.
Q. Do I have any protection from losing my job if I have to be absent due to a serious medical problem
of my family or myself?
A. The federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) requires certain employers to provide up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave to eligible employees for certain family and medical reasons. Employees are eligible if they have worked for a covered employer for at least one year, and for 1,250 hours over the previous 12 months, and if there are at least 50 employees within 75 miles. For more information, contact the U.S. Department of Labor, Wage and Hour Division, Danville Building 2, Suite 220, 10810 Executive Center Drive, Little Rock, Arkansas 72221. Their phone number is (501) 223-9114, fax number is (501) 223-8734, or their website address is http://www.dol.gov/elaws/fmla.htm.
Q. Does my employer have to give me a copy of my personnel records?
A. Government employees can request access to their personnel records under the state Freedom of Information Act. There is no state law, however, which requires non-government employers to provide their employees access or copies of their personnel files. Non-government employees have a right to view or copy their personnel file only if company policy or an employment contract grants such a right.
Wage and Hour
Q. How much time does my former employer have to pay me my final wages once my employment ends?
A. If a company or corporation terminates the employee, the employee’s wages are due by the next regular payday. If the employer fails to make payment within 7 days of the next regular payday then the employer shall owe the employee double the wages due.
Q. What is the minimum wage?
The state minimum wage is:
$9.25 per hour effective January 1, 2019
$10.00 per hour effective January 1, 2020
$11.00 per hour effective January 1, 2021
The Arkansas Minimum Wage Act covers employers with 4 or more employees. Employers covered by the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) are also covered by the Arkansas law if they have 4 or more employees. An employer covered by both laws must pay the highest minimum wage
Q. When does an employer have to pay overtime?
A. An employer has to pay overtime (one and one-half times the regular rate of pay) to non-exempt employees for all hours actually worked in excess of 40 hours in a workweek. This means that you may work more than 8 hours in a day or work more than a regularly scheduled shift, and still not exceed 40 hours of actual work in a workweek. If your employer pays you for hours not actually worked, such as for a holiday or a sick day, then those hours do not count as hours actually worked for the purpose of state and federal overtime law.
Q. Does my employer have to give me a meal break or other break?
A. Neither state nor federal wage and hour laws require an employer to provide a break or a meal period. (State law does require rest breaks for children under the age of 16 employed in the entertainment industry.) Rest periods for short duration, usually 20 minutes or less, are common in industry and promote efficiency. State and federal minimum wage and overtime laws require that these short periods be counted as hours worked and that covered employees be paid for the time. Bona fide meal periods (typically 30 minutes or more) generally need not be compensated as work time. The employee, however, must be completely relieved of duty during this time. If the employee is required to perform any duties, whether active or inactive, while eating, the meal period must be compensated as work time.
Q. Does my employer have to pay me for jury duty?
A. Neither state nor federal law requires a non-government employer to pay wages while an employee is on jury duty. Both state and federal law, however, protect an employee from discharge.
Q. What are the rules on toilet breaks and rooms?
A. OSHA has specific rules on number and access to toilets (also called water closets). These rules can be accessed at http://www.osha.gov/pls/oshaweb/owadisp.show_document?p_table=STANDARDS&p_id=9790
OSHA also explains more on accessibility in a 1998 interpretation at http://www.osha.gov/pls/oshaweb/owadisp.show_document?p_table=INTERPRETATIONS&p_id=22596
Q. What are the requirements for a business to be covered by state wage and hour laws as opposed to federal laws?
A. An employer must follow the strictest child labor laws, state or federal. To determine which law the employer of employees over the age of 17 is covered by, an employer that grosses over $500,000.00 per year or is engaged in interstate commerce is subject to both federal and state wage and hour law . An employer that grosses less than $500,000.00 per year and is not engaged in interstate commerce but has four (4) or more employees is subject to the state wage and hour laws.
Q. What is the youngest a child can work in Arkansas?
A. As a general rule, 14 is the minimum age for employment under state and federal child labor laws. Also, generally, at 16 years of age, a child can be employed for most work, unless the U.S. Department of Labor declares such work hazardous. There are a number of exceptions or restrictions to these general rules dealing with such things as the sale or handling of alcohol; work in the entertainment industry; and delivery of newspapers. For more specific information, write or call the Arkansas Department of Labor, Wage and Hour Division at (501) 682-4534, or visit the U.S. Department of Labor website at www.youthrules.gov.
Q. How many hours can a minor 14 or 15 years of age work when school is in session?
A. According to the Arkansas Child Labor Law, when school is in session a minor 14 or 15 years of age cannot begin work before 6 a.m., work later than 7 p.m., nor more than 8 hours a day, 6 days a week, or more than 48 hours a week.
Q. How many hours can a minor 14 or 15 years of age work when school is NOT in session?
A. According to the Arkansas Child Labor Law, a minor 14 or 15 years of age cannot begin work before 6 a.m., work past 9 p.m., nor more than 8 hours a day, 6 days a week, or more than 48 hours a week when school is not in session.
Q. What are the hour restrictions for a 16 year old according to the Arkansas Child Labor Law?
A. When school is in session the next day, a 16 year old cannot begin work before 6 a.m., work past 11 p.m., work more than 10 hours a day, more than 6 days a week, or more than 54 hours a week. When school is NOT in session the next day, everything is the same except that there is no limit to how late the minor can work