Owning a small business or creating a new business brings many responsibilities, including compliance with various federal labor and employment laws. The Wage and Hour Division (WHD) of the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) administers and enforces some of the nation’s most comprehensive federal labor laws. Collectively, these laws cover most private, state, and local government employment throughout the United States and its territories. Some states have labor laws that afford workers additional rights and protections; employers must comply with both federal and state laws.
As a business owner, you have the responsibility:
- To pay your employees properly.
- To maintain certain records.
- To adhere to certain requirements if you employ minors.
- To provide eligible workers with unpaid family or medical leave.
- To notify your employees of their rights in the workplace.
We’re here to help you stay informed because following the law is good for business! WHD has more than 200 district, field, and area offices across the country with trained personnel available to assist employers and workers.
This webpage provides general information about particular laws administered by WHD and DOL, and other helpful federal resources that are often applicable to new and small businesses.
Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA)
The FLSA establishes minimum wage, overtime pay, recordkeeping, and child labor standards affecting most full-time and part-time workers in the private sector and in federal, state, and local governments.
- WHD FLSA page
- Minimum Wage: Generally, employers must pay most employees the federal minimum wage for all hours worked.
- Overtime: Overtime pay must be at a rate of at least one and one-half times the regular rate of pay for all hours worked over 40 in a workweek.
- Hours Worked: Hours worked cover all the time performing activities that are part of the employee's job, including all the time during which an employee is required to be on duty, or on the employer’s premises, or at any prescribed place of work.
- Recordkeeping: Employers must keep employee time and payroll records.
- Poster: Employers must also display an official poster outlining the requirements of the FLSA.
Federal child labor laws were enacted to ensure that when young people work, the work is safe and does not jeopardize their health, well-being, or educational opportunities. (These provisions also provide limited exemptions.)
- WHD Child Labor page
- YouthRules!: Describes the requirements of the child labor laws as they relate to teens, parents, educators, and employers.
- Child Labor Bulletin No. 101: Describes the occupational requirements for nonagricultural employment.
- Child Labor Bulletin No. 102: Describes the occupational and hours limitations for agricultural employment for minors.
- State Child Labor Laws: Links to state employment laws that also regulate the employment of young workers.
Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)
Covered employers must grant eligible employees up to a total of 12 workweeks of unpaid job-protected leave during any 12-month period for the following reasons:
- The birth and care of the newborn child of the employee.
- The placement with the employee of a son or daughter for adoption or foster care.
- To care for an immediate family member (spouse, child, or parent) with a serious health condition.
- To take medical leave when the employee is unable to work because of a serious health condition.
- Any qualifying exigency arising out of the fact that a spouse, son, daughter, or parent is a military member on covered active duty or call to covered active duty status.
Employees may take up to 26 workweeks of leave during a single 12-month period to care for a covered servicemember with a serious injury or illness if the eligible employee is the servicemember’s spouse, son, daughter, parent, or next of kin.
- WHD FMLA page
- The Employer’s Guide to the Family and Medical Leave Act provides essential information about the FMLA, including information about employers’ obligations under the law and the options available to them in administering leave under the FMLA. The Guide is organized to correspond to the order of events from an employee’s leave request to restoration of the employee to the same or equivalent job at the end of the employee’s FMLA leave. It also includes a topical index for ease of use.
- The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) Advisor can help identify which employers are covered by the law, which employees are eligible for FMLA leave, what entitlements and benefits are provided under the law, and in what situations FMLA leave may be used.
- The Family and Medical Leave Act Poster: All covered employers are required to display and keep displayed this poster. The poster must be displayed in a conspicuous place where employees and applicants for employment can see it. A poster must be displayed in all locations even if there are no eligible employees. The Family and Medical Leave Act Poster is also available in Spanish .
- FLSA Compliance Videos – Learn about Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) requirements simply by viewing our new series of short compliance videos. These brief, plain-language explanations of FLSA requirements strip away the “legalese” and provide employers the basic information they need to understand their obligations and to comply with the law.
- Compliance Assistance Toolkits – Our compliance assistance toolkits contain materials that answer the most frequent questions about federal labor standards, and include posters that meet federal labor law notice requirements.
- Fact Sheets – Fact sheets covering a wide variety of WHD topics.
- Frequently Asked Questions – Topics and specific questions that are often asked of WHD.
- Compliance Assistance Materials – This page lists compliance assistance information by law.
- Industry-Specific Resources – Compliance assistance resources tailored to specific industries.
- Workplace Posters – Poster requirements of several laws administered by the Department of Labor (DOL).
- Resources in Other Languages – WHD offers publications translated into many different languages.
- eLaws Advisors – These online compliance tools help both employers comply with federal employment laws and workers understand their rights under these laws. By asking a series of questions, each advisor simulates a conversation with a Labor Department expert and provides the user with information on the law's requirements.
- The DOL-Timesheet App just got an upgrade! Employees and employers can keep accurate records of hours on the job. The DOL-Timesheet App helps track regular work hours, break time, and overtime hours. The new version of the app also enhances the comments capability, offers multiple pay frequency options, and additional pay calculations.
- Employer.gov – This site provides answers to your questions about your role as an employer.
- Summary of Major Laws of the Department of Labor – The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) administers and enforces more than 180 federal laws. This is a brief description of many of DOL's principal statutes most commonly applicable to businesses, job seekers, workers, retirees, contractors and grantees.
- Other DOL Agencies – These DOL agencies also provide information and resources for small and new businesses at the following sites:
- Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization
- Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)
- Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP)
- Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA)
- Office of Labor-Management Standards (OLMS)
- Office of Workers' Compensation Programs (OWCP)
- Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP)
The following government agencies provide resources for small and new businesses:
In addition to federal regulations, individual states also have laws that business owners must follow. The links below take you to more information about state laws and labor law contacts in the states.
- Minimum Wage Laws in the States – An interactive map that shows the latest minimum wage rates and laws for the 50 states and U.S. territories.
- State Labor Law Topics – A comparison of federal and state laws regarding the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), a list of links to tables comparing various state laws relative to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), including minimum wage and overtime rules, and links to state labor associations.
- State Labor Offices – A directory of all states and their labor office contact information.
- State Laws and Resources – Useful state resources from several DOL agencies