When you work a job, you are either classified as an hourly or salaried employee. A worker who is paid on a salary has a different set of rights and conditions than an hourly worker regarding breaks, pay, hours worked and leave. Many salaried workers are considered exempt, meaning that wage and hour laws do not apply.
A salaried employee is classified as exempt from the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) under one of four main categories according to the government. First, there are executives, who are defined as employees who have authority over two or more other workers. Then, there are administrative employees, such as secretaries and office workers. Professionals perform duties that require an advanced knowledge. A computer employee has technological skills related to computers. Exempt salaried employees are usually referred to as "white collar" workers.
The federal government does not require salaried workers to have meal and rest breaks. The conditions surrounding lunch and smoke breaks are determined by the hiring company. In many cases, the employer will require the salaried worker to come in for 8.5 to nine hours per day instead of eight to allow for a half hour to an hour unpaid lunch break. Some states do specifically require employers to make accommodations for breaks (see Resources for a listing of links to state employment laws).
When someone is on a salary, he is paid the same amount every week for the entire year regardless of how many hours he worked. His paycheck cannot be changed because of poor work performance that week. The salary is a yearly figure (like $30,000 per year) that is divided by the number of weeks in the year to get the weekly pay. Many salaried workers are paid on a bi-weekly or monthly basis.
An exempt salaried employee is paid at least $455 per week. A salaried worker who makes less than $455 per week is non-exempt, meaning that he is covered under the FLSA and eligible for overtime pay.
According to the Family and Medical Leave Act, salaried employees who have worked for the company for more than 12 months, clocked at least 1,250 hours and work at a job that employs more than 50 people are entitled to paid leave. The leave allows the employee to take 12 weeks of leave to take care of a family matter. The worker is only guaranteed unpaid leave, but he cannot lose hisjob for taking those three months off to take care of a family problem. So, for example, if the employee is pregnant, she can take this time to have her baby.
If the employee is disabled, has a medical need that requires a special accommodation or has a religious requirement, he has protections under the Americans with Disabilities Act, Occupational Safety and Health Administration rules, or the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (in reference to accommodations for religious observation).