The FLSA is the federal Law that governs minimum wage, overtime, compensatory time, and break time for nursing mothers. Who is covered? Most paraprofessionals employed by school districts qualify as non-exempt employees and are entitled to overtime and/or compensatory time benefits.  If you are paid on an hourly basis and earn less than $23,660 per year or $455 per week, you most likely qualify.  Categories covered include, but are not limited to: teaching assistants, cafeteria workers, custodians, office clerks, and bus drivers. Employees in salaried, administrative or executive positions usually do not qualify for overtime pay.  

What is the current minimum wage?

Beginning July 27, 2009, federal minimum wage is $7.25 per hour.  

What is overtime pay?

Overtime must be paid at rate of 1½ times an employee’s normal rate of pay for any work over 40 hours in a one week period. It is against the law for an employer to force an employee to agree that they will not be paid for overtime or that they will only work 40 hours a week. If you have worked the hours, then you are entitled to payment, even if you did not get the required pre-authorization.  However, this does not prevent an employer from disciplining you for failure to follow district procedures.  

Compensatory time

Compensatory time off is paid time off the job that is earned and accrued by an employee instead of immediate cash payment for working overtime hours.  Compensatory time is accrued at a rate of not less than one and one half hours for each hour of overtime work.  At the District’s discretion, employees may receive compensatory time off rather than overtime pay, for overtime work, provided the employee agrees to the arrangement in writing before doing the work.  An employee can accrue no more than 240 hours of compensatory time.  

Nursing Mothers

This provision applies only to hourly or non-exempt employees.  FLSA requires employers to provide a “reasonable break time for an employees to express breast milk for her nursing child for 1 year after the child’s birth each time such employee has need to express milk.”  Employers are also required to provide a location that is not a restroom and is free from intrusion from others and that can be used by the employee to express milk.  Your employer is not required to pay for any nursing breaks you take.  

Meal and Rest Breaks

FLSA does not require employers to provide rest or meal breaks to employees.  Most school districts do make provisions for lunch and rest breaks even though they are not required to do so by law.  Check your employee handbook.  Rest periods of up to 20 minutes must be counted as hours worked.  Coffee breaks or time for snacks are rest periods, not meal periods. Lunch breaks of 30 minutes or more are not counted as work hours if the employee is completely relieved from duty.  The employee is not relieved from duty if the employee is required to perform any duties while eating.  

Compliance Assistance

If you have any questions or concerns about whether your rights under FLSA have been violated, don’t hesitate to contact the UEA office at 817-572-1082.  You may also contact the U.S. Department of Labor, Wage and Hour Division at (866) 427-9243.