Arkansas Wage Law Explained
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.
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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 as of 1/1/2021. 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.
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 work week, 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.
Are You Owed Back Overtime Wages?
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.
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 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.
Lore Law Firm is 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.