Back Alabama Labor and Employment Laws

Alabama Labor and Employment Laws

Labor and employment laws play an important part of a civilized society. uring his introduction of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) of 1935, Senator Robert Wagner once said, “Democracy cannot work unless it is honored in the factory as well as the polling booth; men cannot truly be free in body and spirit unless their freedom extends into places where they earn their daily bread.” 

This declaration captures the essence of the various labor laws enacted during the past century. In a democracy, the principles of equality and the rule of law must be upheld, even in private contracts.

Therefore, whether you are an ordinary employee working for a Alabama-based employer who wants to know what rights you are entitled to as an employee, or an HR professional or a legal counsel tasked to ensure that the @state-based employer you are working for is compliant with labor laws to prevent exposing said employers to potential liabilities, learning about labor laws is essential. This article aims to provide you with an overview of labor laws in general, as well as laws enacted by the state of Delaware in particular. This article also provides the importance and purpose of these laws, and some frequently asked questions (FAQs).

What are the Labor Laws in Alabama?

Alabama employment law is a collection of state and federal labor laws. These laws include provisions for wage payment, minimum wage, child labor, and prevailing wages for state-funded construction projects.

Why are Labor Laws Important?

Boone (2015) noted that throughout the early 1900s, working conditions for the average American worker were fairly grim. Child labor was widespread, discrimination in the workplace was normalized, and working conditions were hazardous due to lack of safety regulations. Additionally, unions did not have sufficient protections from the federal government, which made it difficult for workers’ unions to bargain for improved working conditions. Thanks to social and legal shifts throughout the years, labor laws have created better conditions and rights for the American worker. 

Nonetheless, most employers today still exercise tremendous bargaining power over employees, especially at this time when employees’ collective power has dwindled over the years, with union density sitting at around 6.2% percent in the private sector.

Because of this unequal bargaining power, employers are known to have monopsony power. This means employers operate as wage setters rather than wage takers in the employment bargain. As a result, employers will tend to hire fewer workers (thereby leading to either under-employment or worse, unemployment) and those workers suffer lower pay and benefits as well as worse working conditions. Fewer workers also means that employers produce less output and can charge higher prices that harm consumers. Finally,  monopsony power also reduces economic productivity because employers are not competing over wages to lure workers into jobs that are the best match for their productivity and skills.

That is where labor laws come in. Over the course of the 20th century, federal and state laws have been enacted to address this problem of inequality of bargaining power. The aim of these federal laws are to provide social and economic rights for workers, with state laws going beyond such minimum rights by providing expanded rights and protections.

What is the Purpose of the Labor Law

Therefore, the primary purpose of labor law is to minimize, if not eliminate, the negative effects arising from the unequal power wielded by employers, and the inequality of bargaining power between employers and employees. Labor laws impose certain legal requirements on employers which cannot be the subject to negotiation or bargaining with employees. This means that since these requirements are imposed by law, employers have no choice but to comply or face possible civil and/or criminal sanctions from the government.

What is an example of Labor Law in Alabama?

One type of labor law that aims to temper the monopsony power of employers are those that prescribe minimum standards for benefits. An example of this is the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), which requires employers to pay at least the federal minimum wage and overtime pay of 1.5x the regular rate of pay. FLSA also deals with how work hours are computed.

Another type of labor law that addresses monopsony power are those that impose minimum safety and health conditions in the workplace. An example of this is the federal Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA), which imposes on employers the general duty to provide their employees with a workplace free from recognized, serious hazards.

Labor law also governs workers’ compensation laws, which requires employers to pay compensation and medical benefits to employees who suffer work-related injuries or death. An example of this type of law is the Federal Employees’ Compensation Act (FECA), which pays compensation for the disability or death of a federal employee resulting from personal injury sustained while in the performance of duty.

There are also labor laws that aim to regulate the benefits that employees are offered as a way to ensure that the employee’s interests are being considered., There are even laws that impose upon employers the obligation to provide additional benefits to employees that go beyond their usual salary. Examples of these types of laws are the federal Employment Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA), which regulates employers who offer pension or welfare benefit plans for employees, and the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), which requires employers to give unpaid but job-protected leaves to employees who need to attend to the birth or adoption of a child, or for the serious illness of the employee or their family member.

What are Rights of Employees in Alabama?

The following are some of the rights of employees in Alabama, as provided under Alabama employment law and federal law:

  • Right to minimum wage
  • Right to a safe workplace
  • Right to health coverage
  • Right to social security
  • Right to unemployment benefits
  • Right to protection against discrimination
  • Right to family leave

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Does Alabama employment law require meal breaks?

Alabama labor law does not regulate or require meal breaks for employees. An exception to this is for workers younger than 16 who are scheduled to work for five consecutive hours. These employees are entitled to a 30-minute rest or meal break.

Under federal law, an employer must compensate a worker for short rest periods of 20 minutes or less. Meal breaks of 30 minutes or more may be unpaid, as long as this period is uninterrupted and the employee is totally relieved of any work duties and responsibilities.

2. What is the minimum wage requirement in Alabama?

Alabama does not have a state minimum wage. However, this does not mean that employers may pay workers whatever they please. Federal labor laws still apply in most circumstances. Thus, workers who qualify under the FLSA will still have to be paid the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour. Outside sales employees, farm laborers, and newspaper delivery workers are examples of workers who are exempt from overtime pay. 

For tipped workers, such as waiters, waitresses, bellhops, counter personnel (who serve customers), busboys/girls ,and service bartenders, federal law provides a minimum wage of $2.13 per hour. However, if the tips these workers receive in addition to their hourly rate don’t add up to the minimum wage, the employer will have to pay the difference.

3. Can an employer fire an employee without cause in Alabama?

In general, yes. Similar to many states, Alabama is an “at-will” state. Employment at will means that an employment contract may be terminated at any time by either the employer or employee, and either party need not provide a reason for termination. There is also no notice period required, which means an employer or employee may terminate employment effective immediately upon notice, unless the employment contract or employee handbook stipulates a notice period.

There are, of course, exceptional circumstances where an employee may sue for wrongful or arbitrary termination. 

4. When is the termination of employment unlawful in Alabama?

Termination of employment is unlawful when it is due to discrimination, retaliation, union membership, or taking lawful time off work after providing proper notice to the employer. It is also deemed unlawful when the termination was performed in violation of the terms of the employment contract or the employee handbook. 

5. How is overtime pay computed in Alabama?

Alabama does not have any state laws for overtime pay. However, employers still have to comply with federal labor laws regarding overtime. An employee is entitled to overtime pay of 1.5x their regular rate for hours worked in excess of 40 hours per week. As a rule of thumb, employees making less than $455 per week in non-exempt industries are entitled to overtime pay. First responders, such as police, paramedics, and firefighters, must be paid overtime. Practical nurses and paralegals are also entitled to overtime due to the long hours they typically work, even though they would otherwise be categorized as exempt employees.

Airline employees, taxicab drivers, and domestic workers residing with their employers are generally exempt from overtime pay. 

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