Wages and Benefits
Created by FindLaw's team of legal writers and editors | Last reviewed June 20, 2016
Wages and benefits make up an employee's compensation package - the key is to find a balance that is both attractive to top talent and sustainable for your business. Benefits may include health insurance coverage, retirement plans, or other perks sometimes offered along with salary. In addition to information on the basics of employee compensation, FindLaw's section on Wages and Benefits covers the specifics of wage law, leave policies, domestic partner benefits, special protections for active-duty military service members, health insurance plans, garnishment of wages, and other issues related to wages and benefits.
Federal and State Wage Laws
Both the federal government and state governments have laws that are meant to ensure that workers are paid fairly. Probably the two biggest laws relating to wages are laws that set a minimum wage for workers and laws that govern overtime pay. There is a federal minimum wage, and each state is entitled to set its own minimum wage, as long as it's not lower than the federal minimum. The minimum wage can vary depending on the age of the worker and the category of work. For example, if waiters receive a certain amount of tips per month, they may be paid less than the minimum wage.
The specifics of overtime pay will depend on the laws of each state, but generally, overtime pay is required for workers who work over 40 hours in a week, or more than 8 hours in a day. Not all types of employees are entitled to overtime pay, so it's important to check the laws of your state to figure out which workers should be paid overtime. In addition to the minimum wage and overtime pay, employers must also comply with meal and rest period laws. Failure to comply with any of these laws can be quite expensive for employers.
Garnishment of Wages
In some instances, a court order may require an employer to withhold a portion of an employee's wages. This is known as wage garnishment and it occurs when a person is delinquent on a debt - very often with child support - and the creditor obtains a court order to have that debt paid. As an employer, it's important to know that there are limits to how much money can be withheld per pay period. Generally, the court order will indicate how much to withhold and where to send the withheld amount. Employers should also be aware that they are not allowed to terminate a person's employment because of one wage garnishment order. But, if the employee has more than one order for wage garnishment, the employer is entitled to terminate his or her employment.
Employee benefits can be a way to attract employees to your company. There are certain benefits that are required by law and others that are optional. Two benefits required by federal law are Social Security and workers' compensation. There may be other benefits that are required by your state or even county or city, so it's important to check local laws as well. Employers that meet certain criteria are also required to comply with the Family Medical Leave Act and provide health insurance. Non-mandatory benefits include life insurance policies, paid time off, and retirement plans. If you're not required by federal law to provide health insurance, this can also be provided as an optional employee benefit. Employee benefits can help boost employee morale and performance, and can also allow you to pay less in wages.
Hiring an Attorney
Wages and benefits are probably the most important factors for employees when choosing where to work. If you have any questions or concerns about your policies regarding wages and benefits, it's best to consult with an employment law attorney near you.
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