FARGO-When it became a federal holiday in 1894, Americans did not associate Labor Day with backyard barbecues or getting a great deal on a new bedroom set.
The late 1800s were the height of the Industrial Revolution. The average American was working 12-hour days, seven days a week, and often under extremely unsafe working conditions.
The holiday was established to recognize achievements made in the labor movement such as the 40-hour work week, minimum wage, sick leave, overtime and child labor laws.
In the spirit of Labor Day, Sarah Andrews Herman, a partner at Dorsey & Whitney law firm in Fargo and an expert in employment and labor law matters, shared a few lesser-known labor laws in effect today:
• Fair Labor Standards Act: Andrews Herman said the greatest labor law change of 2016 comes from the U.S. Department of Labor's decision to amend the Fair Labor Standards Act that deals with wages and overtime that will go into effect Dec. 1. In order to be exempt from overtime, an employee is required to pass three tests: They have to be paid on a salary basis; that salary has to be no less than $47,476 a year, or $913 a week; and the employee must meet the duties test for exemption. For example, a CPA who is paid less than the required salary amount after Dec 1 will not be exempt even though he or she meets the duties test for exemption. The salary requirement was previously so low, $23,660 per year or $455 per week, that Andrews Herman said it was rarely an issue.
• Workweek limitations: There is still a law on the books in North Dakota that requires employers to give employees "one day of rest in seven." NDCC 34-06-05.1 states "A violation of this section is a class B misdemeanor. ... This section applies to an employer in a business that sells merchandise at retail." Andrews Herman expects this may be a vestige of the state's blue laws when retail sales were not allowed on Sundays.
• Firearms in the workplace: A North Dakota law states that employers, with the exception of schools, correctional facilities and the State Hospital, may not prohibit employees from bringing firearms onto their employers' premises "locked inside or locked to a private motor vehicle in a parking lot." The law also states that an employer who violates these rights through discrimination or termination will be liable for resulting damages and attorney's fees. Andrews Herman said few employers are likely aware of this statute because it's not found with other labor and employment laws, but instead in the Century Code chapter regarding possession of weapons: NDCC 62.1-02-13.
• Non-compete agreements: Andrews Herman said non-competition agreements are largely unenforceable here in North Dakota. In most states, including Minnesota, employers can require new employees to sign a noncompete agreement forbidding them to work for a direct competitor for a certain period of time if they choose to leave. There are few exceptions in North Dakota, but being a shareholder in the company is one instance where a non-compete agreement can be enforced.
• Comp time: Private employers are not allowed to use compensatory time to avoid paying overtime to employees who have worked more than 40 hours in a week. In other words, private employers are not permitted to allow employees to carry overtime hours worked in one workweek to a subsequent work week by giving them paid time off. Herman said that is true even if comp time is authorized or requested by the employee.