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Arkansas Wage Laws

If you believe you’ve been deprived of the compensation to which
you’re legally entitled, please contact the Lore Law Firm. We represent Arkansas
employees who have been subjected to workplace wage and hour violations and
take cases on a contingent fee basis – no fee if no recovery of backpay.

Understanding Arkansas Wage and Overtime laws

Arkansas state labor laws differ in some respects from the
federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) for issues like minimum wage. However, for
the most part, the federal law applies to just about every workplace
compensation-related issue in the state. 

Minimum Wage

While the current federal minimum wage is $7.25 per hour, Arkansas
has set the minimum wage at $10 per hour for 2020, with an increase to $11 per
hour for 2021.  The Arkansas minimum wage
rates for prior years were:

  • 2016: $8.00
  • 2017: $8.50
  • 2018: $8.50
  • 2019: $9.25

These rates apply to all employers with four or more employees
in Arkansas.

Even employers who are not subject to the state minimum wage
laws must adhere to the federal minimum wage if they are required to comply
with the FLSA. The vast majority of employers in Arkansas are subject to the FLSA
and must pay employees at least the federal minimum wage as well as overtime
pay.

Overtime Pay 

Arkansas state labor laws on overtime pay require employers with
4 or more employees to pay time and a-half for all hours worked over 40 per
workweek, unless an employee is properly classified as exempt. State law
provides a specific exemption for agricultural employees, and does not apply to
any employee exempt from the overtime requirements of the federal Fair Labor
Standards Act. As a result, the federal wage and hour law (FLSA) applies and requires
overtime pay to covered, nonexempt employees under that law. An employer that
either requires or permits an employee to work overtime is generally required
to pay that employee overtime for those hours. Overtime is considered any hours
worked over 40 hours per workweek, and the pay for overtime hours is at least
one and one-half times an employee’s regular pay rate.

An employer doesn’t violate overtime laws by requiring employees
to work overtime, (ie “mandatory overtime”), as long as they are properly compensated
at the premium rate required by law.

When Overtime Doesn’t Apply

Most workers in Arkansas are entitled to overtime pay when they
work more than 40 hours per week. In certain circumstances, however, there are
exceptions. 

Employees engaged in executive, administrative, or professional capacities (and paid at least $455 per week on a salary basis) are exempt from the overtime requirement. Note that new minimum salary requirements for these overtime exemptions take effect in January 2020 and increase the minimum salary threshold to $684 per week (or $35,568 annually). This change in federal law will also apply to most workers in Arkansas when making the determination of whether they are classified as exempt or non-exempt from the overtime pay laws.

Misclassification of Independent Contractors

While there are situations in which workers are legitimately
running their own business and properly treated as independent contractors who
are not entitled to receive overtime, employers are not allowed to
mischaracterize employee roles to avoid paying overtime compensation. 

Merely labeling a worker as an independent contractor, or even entering into a written agreement, is not enough to avoid the labor laws on overtime pay.  While there is no single definition of “independent contractor” in Arkansas labor laws. There are several factors to be considered in determining if a worker in Arkansas is an employee or independent contractor (a/k/a 1099 employee) 

If properly classified as an independent contractor under Arkansas
law, workers are typically eligible for only the specific compensation
bargained for in a contract. 

Meals and breaks

Arkansas doesn’t require an employer to provide a meal period or
breaks to employees, other than those under the age of 16 employed in the entertainment
industry. Otherwise, federal laws apply.  

The federal FLSA doesn’t require an employer to provide either a
meal period or breaks. However, if an employer chooses to do so, short breaks
must be paid. Meal or lunch periods don’t have to be paid, so long as the
employee is free to do as they wish during that time. 

Vacation leave

Similar to breaks, Arkansas doesn’t require employers to provide
workers with paid or unpaid vacation leave.

Many employers choose to provide vacation leave as part of a benefits
packages to attract employees, however. In these situations, employers may set
the policies, terms and conditions as to how and when such a benefit is used –
including “use it or lose it” policies that state that terminating employees
forfeit accrued but unused vacation time. However, any such policy must be
clearly communicated to

employees through handbooks or other published policies.

Statute of limitations

Arkansas’s deadline for filing an overtime claim adheres to the FLSA, which requires those seeking to recover unpaid back overtime wages file a lawsuit within two years from the date of the employer’s wage violation. So a lawsuit filed today would be able to seek recovery of back overtime for only the prior 2 (sometimes 3) years.

As an example, suppose you believe that your employer has failed
to pay you proper overtime wages since January 1, 2016. Waiting until June 1,
2019, to file your lawsuit means you are only allowed to seek unpaid wages from
June 1, 2017, to June 1, 2019.

The statute of limitations may be extended to three years if an
employer’s violation of the FLSA was willful. An FLSA violation is deemed
willful if the employer knew that its conduct was prohibited by the FLSA or
showed reckless disregard.

On your side 

At the Lore Law Firm, we represent salaried, hourly, and
day-rate workers in an array of employment litigation matters, including unpaid
overtime compensation claims in Arkansas. Our attorneys, and the Arkansas overtime
law attorneys we associate with, are passionate about protecting the rights of
workers and have helped recover millions of dollars in unpaid overtime wages
for our clients.

Contact us for a free and confidential review of your situation.