Iowa Overtime Laws & Wages Attorney

Iowans have the right to be paid a minimum wage and to be paid for their overtime, along with a number of other protections. Of course, not all employers obey the various state and federal laws that cover their workers. Even worse, many employees simply don’t know that their rights have been violated. Has your employer refused to compensate you fairly? Do you have questions about your wage and hour rights? Connect with The Lore Law Firm.

State Versus Federal Law: What’s the Difference?

Iowa has a number of labor laws concerning the wages that employees are entitled to be paid. Many of these are different from the laws set forth in the main federal statute that covers the same subject matter, the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). Wherever Iowa and federal laws differ, the state law only applies if it provides greater rights or protections than the federal law. In other words, the law that is more favorable to the worker will apply.

Iowans’ Minimum Wage Rights

Iowa’s minimum wage is identical to the federal rate of $7.25/hour and covers most workers. Meanwhile, the minimum wage for tipped workers is $4.35/hour. If during any work week the wage paid to the employee plus the tips the employee receives do not average at least $7.25/hour, the employer must pay the difference.

Iowa also has an initial employment wage law that allows employers to pay employees $6.35 (rather than the $7.25 rate) for the first 90 days.

Overtime Pay Rules in Iowa

Iowa employers must pay time and a half to all workers (1.5 times the regular hourly rate) for all hours over 40 worked during a week. Some employees are not covered by this (see below). For minimum wage Iowa workers, the current overtime pay rate is 1.5 times $7.25/hour or $10.88/hour. Mandatory overtime is permitted as long as the employee is properly compensated.

There is no right to reporting pay or “show-up” pay in Iowa, which happens when a worker shows up for a shift but is either sent home or sent home early and is therefore unable to work the full number of hours promised.

Exemptions to Overtime Pay

Although most Iowa workers have the right to be paid overtime, there are exceptions. For instance, executive, administrative, and professional workers are generally not covered, provided they are paid a minimum weekly salary and meet other legal criteria related to their job duties and responsibilities. If you have questions about whether an exemption applies to you, let us review your case by filling out our free and confidential intake form.

Are You Being Misclassified As An Independent Contractor?

The independent contracting system allows workers who are legitimately running their own businesses to be treated as contractors. This means they are not entitled to overtime and other labor law benefits. But employers are not allowed to skirt wage and hour laws by improperly misclassifying employees as independent contractors. 

Defining what an “independent contractor” is can be difficult. Simply labeling an employee as an independent contractor, however, is not enough. Nor is asking an employee to sign a contract designating him or her as an independent contractor. When determining whether a worker is an employee or an independent contractor, courts generally look at the degree of control the employer has over the worker’s activities. Some specific factors include:

  • Whether and to what degree the employer can control the means, manner and methods of work that is to be done
  • Whether and to what degree certain business aspects of the worker’s job are controlled by the employer (e.g., who provides tools and supplies and whether certain expenses are reimbursed)
  • The relationship between the employer and the worker, as evidenced by any contract, benefits, and other aspects

When a worker is properly classified as an independent contractor, that individual is usually only entitled to the compensation agreed upon in a contract.

Which Items Can Legally Be Deducted From Your Paycheck?

Payroll deductions can only be made in compliance with Iowa or federal law. Employers therefore may not withhold any portion of a worker’s wages unless required by law to do so, or unless the employer has received written authorization from the employee.

These items can be deducted from employee paychecks:

  • Taxes
  • Garnishments
  • Deductions for any lawful purpose accruing to the benefit of the employee, provided the employee has given written authorization (for example, insurance, 401(k), pensions, bonds, and savings programs)

The following items cannot be deducted from wages:

  • Cash shortages in common money till
  • Losses due to breakage, damage, accepting bad checks, and default of customer credit (except in certain limited cases)
  • Lost or stolen property, unless certain conditions are met
  • Personal protective equipment, in most cases

How May Wages Be Paid?

Employers are permitted to require a direct deposit for employee wages if:

  • The employee was hired after July 1, 2005
  • The costs of opening and keeping the account do not drop the employee’s pay below minimum wage
  • There is no charge to the employee’s account for the direct deposit
  • The employee is not covered by a union contract that prohibits mandatory direct deposits

When an employee is no longer with a company, either because he or she quit or because he or she was terminated, any wages owed to the separated employee must be paid by the next regularly scheduled pay date.

Rules Concerning Pay Stubs And Statements

Every regular payday, Iowa employers are required to provide their employees with a statement that includes the following:

  • The hours the employee worked
  • The wages earned by the employee
  • The deductions made from that paycheck

The statement shall be provided in one of the following ways:

  • Mailing the statement to an employee
  • Providing the statement to an employee by secure electronic transmission or other secure electronic means, as long as the employee is able to receive the statement under these methods (otherwise, the employer must use another approved method)
  • Providing the statement to an employee at the normal place of employment during normal working hours
  • Providing each employee access to view and print a statement of their earnings electronically and providing free and unrestricted access to a printer to print the statement

Rules Concerning Breaks And Meal Periods

Employers are not required by Iowa law to give breaks or meal periods to adult workers. Also, the employer does not have to pay an employee for a break if the employee is relieved of all work duties during that time. An employer can require an employee to remain at the place of employment during the employee’s break.

Only the following breaks are required under state law:

  • Minors younger than 16 years of age must be given a 30-minute break if they are employed five hours or more in a day
  • All employees must be allowed toilet breaks when necessary
  • A union contract may require breaks and those requirements are enforced by the union

    Also, certain workers such as airline pilots may be entitled to breaks under federal regulations.

    Vacation, Holiday, And Sick Leave Not Required

    Iowa law does not require employers to provide workers with paid or unpaid vacation, holiday, or sick leave. Although employers may offer such leave as part of a benefits package, the employer can dictate the terms, policies, and conditions governing it. This includes “use-it-or-lose-it” policies under which employees must use their time off by a certain date or forfeit it. If an employer offers leave (paid or unpaid), it must abide by its own policies, practices, or contracts regarding these benefits.

    Statute of Limitations For Wage And Hour Claims

    Iowa follows FLSA rules concerning overtime claims. To recover back overtime pay, a worker must file a lawsuit within two years of the violation. This time period, known as a statute of limitations, can be extended to three years if the employer’s violation of the FLSA was willful. “Willful” means the employer knew its conduct was illegal or showed reckless disregard for the law.

    It is generally recommended that you not wait the full two or three years before taking legal action to recover overtime or other wage and hour rights. The sooner you file your claim, the easier it will be to obtain the evidence needed to pursue it. You can fill out our free and confidential intake form so our attorneys can review your case.

    What Are The Penalties for Wage And Hour Violations?

    Employers who fail to pay proper overtime wages can be held liable for up to twice the amount of unpaid back wages, plus court costs and attorney’s fees incurred by the employee. Lawsuits can be brought by overtime pay lawyers, who work on a contingent fee, on a class or collective basis on behalf of all workers subjected to the same illegal pay practices.

    Layoffs, Plant Closings, And WARN Notices

    The Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act (WARN) offers protection to Iowa workers, their families, and communities in the event of sudden layoffs and plant closings. Employers must provide advance notice 60 days before a plant closing or other mass layoff covered by the law. The notice must be provided to either the affected workers or their representatives (e.g., a labor union).

    An employer who violates the WARN Act by failing to provide appropriate notice is liable to each employee for an amount of up to 60 days back pay and benefits for the period of violation.

    Contact A Trusted Iowa Wage And Hour Attorney

    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 Iowa. We have the legal experience it takes to help our clients recover the wages they have worked hard to earn. To get started, contact us for a free and confidential review of your case.