Employment Law 101: What Are My Rights?

Young African American Woman Working a Cash Register at a Restaurant

Understanding the Fair Labor Standards Act

When you perform your job duties to meet your company's expectations, you expect your employer to hold up their end of the bargain to ensure your employment rights are protected. While most employers care about their employees and treat them respectfully, others may turn a blind eye when it comes to carrying out their legal obligations to their workers.

The good news is that The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), which was passed in 1938, is a labor law that protects both salaried and hourly employees. The law oversees things like the federal standard for minimum wage, overtime pay, hours worked, child labor, and recordkeeping. These standards apply to both the private sector and federal, state, and local government positions. Here's what every employee needs to know:

Protections Under the FLSA

State Level vs. Federal Level

States can have their own standards regarding work pay, so long as the federal criteria are met first. For example, the federal minimum wage is $7.25. Certain states, like here in Michigan, can set a higher hourly minimum wage. Currently, Michigan is at $9.65 per hour.

Non-exempt employees must receive overtime for hours worked over 40 hours per workweek. The FLSA does not require overtime pay for work on weekends, holidays, or any regular rest days unless overtime is worked on those days. The FLSA mandates that overtime pay is equal to 1 ½ times your regular pay.

Minimum Wage

Michigan had planned to raise the minimum wage to $9.87 from the current rate of $9.65 on January 1, 2021, however, the rate did not increase since the unemployment rate for 2020 exceeded 8.5%. The state plans to increase the minimum wage to $12.05 through 2030.

In Michigan, you must be at least 14 years old to work. Anyone under the age of 18 will be required to get a work permit first. If you are 14-15, you will need form CA-6. If you are 16-17, you will need form CA-7. Changing jobs while under the age of 18, will require a new work permit. There are also limits on what jobs and tasks you can participate in and how many hours you can work if under 18 due to safety reasons. Under child labor laws in Michigan, if you are under 18:

  • You may not work a job if driving a vehicle is required, as an outside helper on a vehicle, on construction sites, doing animal slaughtering or butchering, using lead paint, varnish, or other chemical solvents, or using power tools.
  • You do not need a work permit if you finished high school or are 17 and have gotten your GED. If you work for parents or guardians, have a co-op job for school, or do farm work, you won't need a work permit either.
  • You are permitted to work at a business where alcohol is sold or consumed, but alcohol sales may not add up to more than 50% of the gross business receipts.
  • You cannot work more than 10 hours a day or six days a week or average more than 8 hours a day in a workweek.

For minors, their school and work total combined hours cannot exceed 48 hours per week. If your boss asks you to work more than this, you have the right to refuse. Those 15 and under cannot work in the part of the business where alcohol is consumed. If you are 16 or under, you cannot work past 9 pm or before 7 am. If you are 17, you cannot work after 10:30 pm or before 6 am.

Overtime Pay

In the state of Michigan and according to the Fair Labor Standards Act, your employer is required to pay overtime when employees work more than 40 hours in a week unless they are exempt. The Michigan overtime rate is the same as the FLSA at 1 ½ times your regular rate.


If you are over 18, Michigan does not require employers to provide breaks, including lunch breaks. However, employers must pay their employers for shorter breaks they take during the day. Those under 18 are required to be given a 30-minute break if they are scheduled to work more than five continuous hours.

Leaves of Absence

Michigan does not mandate employers to provide employees with either paid or unpaid vacation benefits. An employer may choose to establish a lawful policy regarding vacation as long as it complies with Mich. Comp Laws 408.473.

Sick Leave

Sick leave, paid or unpaid, is also not required by the state of Michigan. If an employer provides such leave, they would be required to comply with the policy they established. According to the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), an employer may be required to provide job-protected unpaid sick leave in extenuating circumstances.

Holiday Pay

Michigan has a list of holidays recognized and observed by the state. According to Michigan law, the time off required by the state will depend on the day the holiday falls on.

Civil Duties

Employers are not required to pay employees for responding to a jury summons, but they may also not discipline or threaten an employee for responding and serving. Michigan currently does not have any laws requiring an employer to grant employees time off to vote — paid or unpaid.

Other Employment Rights Outside of the FLSA

Self-Expression on the Job

Employers have the right to set a dress code regarding wardrobe, hairstyles, piercings, and tattoos. This means if your employer says you must remove piercings and cover tattoos, you are required to do so. However, in Ingham County, legislation has been passed on March 23 and is now the first Michigan county to ban hair discrimination against public employees.

Read more about the Michigan Crown Act in an article published by The State News.

Private employers may also prohibit any political clothing and symbols from being displayed. Public employers cannot prevent religious clothing and accessories because of First Amendment protections. However, these protections do not apply to private employers. You should discuss your situation with your employer or seek an experienced employment rights lawyer to help if you suspect your rights are being violated.

Safety in the Workplace

While the FLSA governs wage and hour laws, The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is the government standard that requires employers to make sure they provide a safe and healthy work environment for employees. Employees have the right to refuse to work in unsafe working conditions and report it, even if they are not performing the task. Employees are also protected by law against retaliation when it comes to reporting dangerous conditions.

Privacy at Work

Employers are allowed to have cameras in the workplace so long as they are not in the restrooms or areas someone may undress, such as a locker room. Employers are not required to inform employees of such cameras.

Employers also have the right to search any desks, handbags, or pockets of employees, but only if there is a workplace policy in place regarding searches and the searches are conducted for legitimate reasons. Employers can also read emails and go through your desktop unless it is explicitly written in a union contract or other work contract. Employers can also legally listen in on phone calls.

Are Your Employment Rights Being Violated? We Are Here For You.

Many employees don't realize the rights they have when on the job. From discrimination and sexual harassment to retaliation and wage and hour issues, we are here to protect your employment rights. When employers fail to follow federal and state employment laws and regulations that affect your job, you have the right to seek justice. We are in your corners and will support you through every step of the process. When you need help during a difficult time, Grewal Law PLLC we are ready to protect your rights.

Call Grewal Law PLLC at (888) 211-5798 to schedule a consultation.

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