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Legally Required Employee Benefits

written by: Nicky LaMarco•edited by: Michele McDonough•updated: 9/23/2009

It is customary for employers to provide employee benefits, such as health benefits, paid holidays, and sick days. While company policy may dictate the employee benefits that are being offered, very few of these are actually legally required.

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    Legally Required Employee Benefits

    If it becomes necessary to adjust company policies for any reason, such as for budgeting or financial necessity, many benefits can be legally revoked. However, there are a few employee benefits which employers are required by law to provide.

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    Minimum Wage Requirements

    Minimum wage requirements have been established by the Fair Labor Standards Act. Additionally, some states also have their own minimum wage laws. There are some exceptions to the minimum wage requirements. If an employee can expect to receive $30 or more in tips during the month, the employer isn’t required to pay the minimum wage, and as a result, the employee is permitted to keep all of their tips. There are also certain exceptions to this law for students who are receiving school credit in exchange for their work, or for new employees under the age of 20. Disabled individuals who are involved in community involvement work programs may also be exempt from the minimum wage requirements.

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    Overtime Pay Requirements, Social Security and Breaks

    If an employee is paid hourly, they are required to be paid at a “time and a half" rate for any number of hours worked over a 40 hour work week. Additionally, overtime is not required by law to be paid extra for weekends and holidays, unless the limit of 40 hours of work time has been exceeded for the week. Employers are required by law to pay into the Social Security system at the same rate as is paid into by the employee themselves

    Break times are not legally required as an employee benefit except in some industries, such as transportation. However, some states do mandate meal and rest breaks for employees, such as a 15 minute paid break and a 30 minute unpaid lunch break for a shift lasting 6 to 8 hours. Fewer than half of the states in the US have these types of rules.

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    Requirements Regarding Family Leave Time, Discrimination and Disabilities

    The Family Medical Leave Act applies under some circumstances to employers and employees. This is usually dictated by the amount of time an employee has worked for the company and the amount of workers that are employed by the company as well as some additional criteria. This act allows an employee, when faced with a situation such the need to care for a family member, the birth or adoption of a child, or a medical condition, to take time off. Employers are required under these types of circumstances to offer a minimum of 12 weeks unpaid leave, although many companies and employees negotiate their own mutually acceptable terms under these guidelines.

    Employees are also guaranteed a safe workplace, free from discrimination on the basis of sex, race or religion, and freedom from harassment. Reasonable accommodations are also required to be provided for disabled employees if the employer has more than 50 employees.

    Employees who are denied any of these employee benefits that are required by law can pursue legal recourse.