The problem with the definition of “part-time” is that it is completely arbitrary. Essentially, the employer gets to determine what is considered part or full-time hours, which leaves you with not much of an argument when it comes to the hours you work over your agreed schedule. The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) does not include any distinction between part time or full-time hours, which leaves you – as the employee – in a bit of a quandary. When you accepted the role it was on the understanding that your hours would be limited to what you were prepared or able to work. However, you have now found yourself in a position where you are working 40 hours a week on a part time contract.
Legally, there is no federal law which applies to part time employees working full-time hours. However, there are certain scenarios where you will lose out on money as well as time. In those instances, you may have a case for employer discrimination. For instance, if you are constantly working 40 hours plus and you are not receiving the same benefits as full-time employees, your employer is attempting to exploit a loophole which results in you not being paid what you are entitled to.
As the terms “part-time” and “full-time” are dictated by your employer, you are more than likely missing out on certain benefits. Bonus schemes and health plans are the two main areas where an unscrupulous employer can exploit your willingness to work extra hours. Legally, so long as the definitions within a contract are met, you have no recourse for claiming against your employer. A good example of this type of legal manipulation is company health plans which are only available to “FULL-TIME” employees.
So, while you may work as many hours as your colleagues, your contract states that you are part time. You will receive the same base rate of pay, in accordance with the minimum wage, but that is where the buck stops. Unless you have a contract which states you are full-time, your employer is under no obligation to provide you with the benefits which come with being a full-time member of the workforce. That means you will be doing the same job without equal benefits.
What Can I Do?
The most obvious suggestion is to complain. However, you are always running the risk that your manager knows exactly what they are doing and she or he doesn’t want to affect the status quo. If you prefer working part-time hours, the ideal scenario is your employer reducing your hours to ensure that your financial incentive consists with the benefits available to you. If you are fine with working over 40 hours a week, however, you need to decide whether the benefits of moving permanently to full-time outweigh the freedom of working part-time.
In many cases, your contractual rights supersede both state and federal laws. You have to consider what is best for you, both financially and practically. If you took on part-time hours because you have another job or you are attending college, your employer cannot force you to work 40 hours a week. She or he can, however, exploit you in order to reduce the amount of compensation you receive for working the same hours as everybody else. So, there are two things you should look into: Where the threshold is set between part-time and full-time, and which benefits are afforded to the later by merit of being a full-time employee.
Will challenging my hours benefit me?
The reality is, challenging your hours will not always work in your favor. Despite the fact that it is against the law, there are a number of loopholes in the law surrounding hours worked which are easily exploited. Benefits which are only available to full-time employees are only the tip of the iceberg. Your employer is under no obligation to consistently provide you with extra hours either. That leaves you in a hiatus, where your earning power and chance of progression are at the sole whim of the company management. Unless you were forced under duress to work the extra hours, you will have a very difficult case to fight in court.
Who can help me?
The U.S. Department of Labor can help you pursue a case, where there exists evidence which provides the grounds for willfully ignoring the law. The likely outcome is that the employer will agree to adhere to the schedule specified in your contract of employment. However, that does not mean that you cannot work overtime. So long as the conditions of your contract of employment are met, you have no obligation to work any longer than your contracted hours.
Hiring professional help
If you have reached your wit’s end and don’t know what to do, you can visit a labor lawyer to hear your complaint. A labor attorney will be able to determine what, if any, course of action should be taken.