Compliance Watch:
What are my rights as an hourly employee in Alabama?

April 11th 2024

Understanding your rights in the workplace is crucial, especially when it comes to ensuring fair treatment, compensation, and working conditions. As an hourly employee in Alabama, various federal and state laws safeguard your interests, ensuring you receive at least the minimum wage to protect your rights to breaks and overtime pay. This article seeks to guide you through the fundamental rights you hold in your employment situation, providing clarity and insight into the legal protections available to you, and offering resources to empower you in the workplace.

This Article Covers

Defining an Hourly Employee in Alabama
Wage and Hour Regulations in Alabama
Rest Laws in Alabama
Deductions, Benefits, and Protections in Alabama
Termination of Employment in Alabama

Defining an Hourly Employee in Alabama

What is Hourly Employment in Alabama?

Hourly employment in Alabama signifies a work arrangement where workers are compensated based on the number of hours they work, contrasting with a salary-based compensation where pay is fixed. In other words, in hourly employment, the pay a worker receives correlates with the number of hours worked: more hours equals more pay, and vice versa. The pay rate per hour is agreed upon between the employer and the employee, and it’s pivotal that it adheres to federal and any applicable local wage laws.

What are the Key Differences Between Hourly and Salaried Employees in Alabama?

Here’s a table outlining the key differences between hourly and salaried employees in Alabama based on the standards prevalent as of 2024:

Key Differences

Hourly Employee

Salaried Employee

Payment Basis

Paid per hour worked.

Fixed regular payment.

Overtime Eligibility

Typically eligible.

Typically exempt.

Pay Fluctuations

Pay varies with the hours worked by the employee.

Consistent pay.

Minimum Wage

Must be paid at least $7.25/hr.

Not specifically applicable

Job Stability

May be seasonal/temporary.

Often more stable.


May not always be offered.

Typically offered.

To learn more about Alabama labor laws, you can access our guides on understanding your rights as a salaried employee in Alabama and discover how to run payroll in Alabama.

Wage and Hour Regulations in Alabama

What are the Maximum Weekly Working Hours in Alabama?

In Alabama, as with many states., the subject of maximum weekly working hours is governed by federal law, specifically the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). In simple terms, the FLSA does not set a limit on the maximum number of hours an adult can work in a week. This means that, technically, employers in Alabama can ask their employees to work a large number of hours.

The primary stipulation here, especially pertinent for hourly workers in the state, is that any hours worked over 40 in a single workweek must be compensated at the overtime rate, which is at least one and a half times the regular rate of pay. So, if you’re an hourly employee in Alabama and you find yourself working more than the standard 40 hours in a week, you should expect to see that reflected in your pay, with additional hours paid at the higher overtime rate.

However, while there is no upper limit set by the FLSA, there may be union agreements, employment contracts, or company policies that do establish maximum working hours per week. These can sometimes be in place to protect the well-being of employees and ensure safe working conditions, particularly in jobs that require physical labor or can be mentally taxing. Thus, you should consult your respective employment contracts or speak with the HR representative to understand any company-specific regulations related to maximum working hours.

In certain industries, particularly those that can involve safety concerns like transportation, there might be other regulations in place that dictate the maximum number of hours that can be worked in a given period. Therefore, if you’re working in such a field, it’s worth exploring whether any additional guidelines or regulations might apply to your situation.

What is the Minimum Wage for Hourly Employees in Alabama?

Understanding the minimum wage is crucial for all hourly employees, as it provides a baseline for what you can expect to earn per hour worked. In case you don’t know, Alabama is one of the states in the country that have not set its own minimum wage. Consequently, employers in Alabama must adhere to the federal minimum wage set by the FLSA, which is $7.25 per hour.

The concept of the minimum wage is relatively straightforward: it is the lowest per-hour pay that can be legally paid to employees. For hourly workers in Alabama, regardless of the type of work you’re doing, your employer should pay you at least $7.25 for every hour worked. This rate is a safeguard to ensure that all employees receive a baseline level of compensation for their labor.

For those receiving tips as part of their compensation, such as restaurant/hotel  servers or bartenders, there is a different guideline to be aware of. The minimum cash wage for tipped employees, according to the FLSA, is $2.13 per hour. However, if the combination of tips and the cash wage does not amount to the standard federal minimum wage ($7.25 per hour), employers are mandated to make up the difference. It’s crucial to understand that you are entitled to at least the standard minimum wage when your hourly rate and tips are combined.

It’s worth noting that while the federal minimum wage has not seen an increase since 2009, there are ongoing discussions and movements advocating for this to change. There’s a possibility that we might see an increase in the federal minimum wage in the future, which would directly impact hourly workers in Alabama. For that reason, it is wise to stay abreast of any news or legislative changes related to the minimum wage in the state to ensure that your compensation is fair and always in compliance with the most current laws and guidelines in Alabama.

How Many Hours Qualify As Overtime and What is the Associated Pay in Alabama?

In Alabama, like many other states in the U.S., the rules around overtime hours and pay are largely governed by federal law, particularly the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). Understanding the basics of overtime is essential for hourly employees because it directly impacts how your pay is calculated when you work more than a standard workweek.

As a starting point, the standard benchmark for overtime in Alabama is any hours worked over 40 in a single workweek. In clearer terms, if you work 40 hours or fewer in a week, you receive your standard pay rate. However, once you cross over into that 41st hour (and beyond) within the same workweek, those additional hours qualify as overtime. The distinction of what constitutes a workweek should be clearly defined by your employer/company and generally consists of any fixed, recurring period of 168 hours or seven consecutive 24-hour days.

The associated pay for overtime hours is where things get a bit more beneficial for the employee. The FLSA mandates that overtime pay should be at least one and a half times your regular rate of pay. This rate, quite beneficial in instances of extensive work hours, is often referred to as “time and a half.” So, if you’re an hourly employee in AL making the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour, your overtime rate should be at least $10.88 per hour (that’s $7.25 x 1.5).

Understanding this, keep accurate track of your hours worked, ensuring that any overtime is logged and compensated correctly. Your employer should have systems in place to track this, but maintaining your own records ensures that you can address any discrepancies proactively.

While the federal guidelines provide a broad framework for overtime, your specific employment situation (such as your industry, whether you’re part of a union, etc.) may have additional rules or exceptions about overtime. Always refer to your employment contract or speak with the HR department to ensure you’re fully informed about your own specific situation. Stay informed, track your hours, and ensure that your pay reflects your hard work accurately and fairly.

Rest Laws in Alabama

What are the Offered Meal and Rest Breaks for Hourly Employees in Alabama?

In Alabama, navigating the waters of meal and rest breaks for hourly employees means understanding both federal and state perspectives as they intertwine to guide workplace practices. Predominantly, Alabama does not have a specific state law that mandates employers to provide meal or rest breaks to their employees. Instead, work breaks in Alabama are primarily governed by federal law, specifically the standards set by the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).

The FLSA does not obligate employers to provide meal or rest breaks, but it does establish guidelines for those that do. Short breaks, those lasting between 5 to 20 minutes, if offered, must be paid. For instance, if your employer allows you to take a 15-minute break, you should be compensated for that time. So, if you’re an hourly employee taking a short break, this time counts toward your total hours worked and, if it pushes you over 40, towards overtime.

Meal breaks, which are typically 30 minutes or longer, are treated differently. In Alabama, the FLSA does not require these breaks to be paid, meaning employers can opt whether to compensate for this time or not. If you take a lunch break, your employer may choose not to pay you for this period as long as you are fully relieved of your duties during this time.

Because Alabama doesn’t have specific state laws mandating breaks, it’s crucial for hourly employees to refer to their employment contract or handbook to understand the specific rights and employer’s policies regarding breaks. Employers might offer breaks as part of their company policy or as agreed upon in employment contracts. It is always essential to discuss and have a clear, comprehensive understanding of these policies when you join a new workplace.

What Laws Govern Time Off and Leaves for Hourly Employees in Alabama?

  • Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA): The Family and Medical Leave Act, more commonly known as FMLA, is a vital piece of federal legislation that permeates through states, including Alabama. This law grants eligible employees up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave each year for certain family and medical situations without the fear of losing their jobs. This might involve situations like recovering from a serious health condition, bonding with a new child (whether by birth, adoption, or foster care), or caring for a family member with a serious health condition.
  • Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA): The Fair Labor Standards Act, or FLSA, is a federal law, and while it’s often associated with wage and hour regulations, it indirectly influences time off and leaves by regulating work hours. However, it’s essential to understand that FLSA does not mandate vacation, holiday, severance, or sick pay. It merely ensures that if you do take any time off that is paid, this time is not counted as “time worked” when calculating overtime.
  • Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA): The ADA doesn’t explicitly govern time off, but it is extremely pivotal when discussing leaves related to disabilities. The ADA mandates that qualified employers (those with 15 or more employees) provide reasonable accommodations to employees with disabilities, and this may include providing leave when needed for the employee to manage their disability, even if the employer does not offer leave to other employees.
  • Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA): For military service members, the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act, or USERRA for short, plays a crucial role. USERRA protects the job rights of individuals who voluntarily or involuntarily leave employment positions to undertake military service. This means that eligible veterans and service members have the right to be reemployed in their civilian jobs and cannot be discriminated against due to their military obligations.

Alabama does not have state-specific laws related to general sick leave, vacation, or personal time off (PTO) for private employers. Private employers in Alabama typically have the freedom to create their own policies about paid and unpaid leave as long as they adhere to federal laws. Understanding these laws ensures that you are aware of your rights and can navigate through any situations while maintaining a balance with your hourly employment obligations.

Deductions, Benefits, and Protections in Alabama

What are the Laws Regarding Pay Deductions for Hourly Employees in Alabama?

Here are the key laws regarding pay deductions for hourly employees in Alabama:

  • Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA): The FLSA governs the basic nationwide standards for minimum wage, overtime pay, recordkeeping, and child labour. For Alabama hourly employees, the FLSA establishes that they must receive at least the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour and are entitled to overtime pay (1.5 times the regular hourly rate) for any hours worked beyond 40 in a workweek. Remember, this Act allows for certain exemptions, such as for salaried managers, so it is essential to understand if you are classified correctly in your employment.
  • Alabama State Laws: Alabama follows the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) but doesn’t have specific state minimum wage laws in place. Consequently, the federal minimum wage is the default for hourly workers in the state. Although there are no specific state regulations regarding wages and hours for private-sector employees in Alabama, it’s extremely essential for hourly employees to be aware that they are protected at least under federal law, ensuring they are paid no less than the federal minimum wage and are compensated for overtime appropriately.
  • Permissible Deductions: Employers in Alabama can legally make several deductions from an employee’s paycheck. This includes various taxes (like federal, state, and local income taxes, as well as Social Security and Medicare taxes) and court-ordered wage garnishments. Additionally, with the permission of the hourly employee, employers can deduct costs for things like health insurance premiums and retirement plan contributions, etc. Therefore, it is vital to regularly check your pay stub to ensure that the deductions made are accurate and agreed upon.
  • Impermissible Deductions: Employers are restricted from making certain deductions from an employee’s pay, even with authorization. For example, your employer cannot make deductions that would bring your pay below the federal minimum wage. This protection ensures that employees take home a lawful amount each pay period, and any deductions that would violate this rule are impermissible. Furthermore, employers can’t make deductions for shortages, damages, or tools necessary for your work unless you voluntarily authorize them to do so and even then, not if it would drop your pay below the minimum wage.
  • Overtime Pay: Alabama adheres to the FLSA’s regulations regarding overtime pay, ensuring that all non-exempt hourly employees receive overtime pay at a rate of one and a half times their regular pay rate for any hours worked over 40 in a workweek. Be mindful of your work hours and ensure that you are adequately compensated for any overtime worked, understanding that Alabama does not have specific laws governing overtime pay, ensuring fair compensation.
  • Recordkeeping: Employers are required to maintain accurate records of the hours worked by hourly employees. This is crucial to ensuring that you are paid properly for all regular and overtime hours worked. Always ensure that your hours are logged accurately, and don’t hesitate to speak with your HR department if you notice discrepancies or have concerns about your hours and pay. This will safeguard your right to fair compensation under the FLSA.

What are the Hourly Employees Entitlements Under Alabama State Law?

Alabama does not have a state-specific minimum wage and relies on the federal minimum wage set by the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). Thus, note that there might be updates or changes beyond this point, which should be checked through the most recent and localized sources. Nonetheless, let’s delve into understanding some general principles about hourly employee entitlements, keeping in mind federal standards and the general environment in Alabama.

  • Minimum Wage: Hourly employees are typically entitled to be paid no less than the federal minimum wage, which is $7.25 per hour. Some cities might have higher minimum wages, but overall, in the absence of a state-level minimum wage, the federal rate is the baseline.
  • Overtime Pay: In accordance with federal law, in Alabama, hourly employees are generally entitled to receive overtime pay of at least 1.5 times their regular pay rate for any hours worked beyond 40 in a workweek. There aren’t Alabama-specific laws that diverge from this federal standard, so it’s the FLSA rules that employers in Alabama need to adhere to in this regard.
  • Breaks and Meal Periods: Alabama does not have specific laws regarding breaks and meal periods for adult employees. However, federal law does not mandate breaks or meal periods but does specify that if employers voluntarily offer short breaks (usually 5-20 minutes), they must be paid. Meal periods (typically 30 minutes or more) do not need to be paid, as long as the hourly employee is completely free to do as they wish during this time of the working period.
  • Child Labor: Alabama has specific, stringent rules for workers under the age of 18, which restrict the number of hours and the types of work they can perform. For example, 14 and 15-year-olds have limitations on the number of hours they can work during school weeks and non-school weeks, as well as the hours of the day they can work on normal days. 
  • Leave Entitlements: Alabama doesn’t have state-specific laws concerning sick leave, vacation, or other paid time off. However, employers are subject to federal laws, such as the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), which allows eligible employees to take unpaid leave for specific family and medical reasons, with continuation of group health insurance coverage.
  • Discrimination and Harassment: Employers in Alabama are subject to federal laws that prohibit discrimination and harassment. These laws make it illegal to discriminate against or harass employees based on certain characteristics, such as race, color, religion, sex, or origin.
  • Termination and Unemployment: Alabama is an “at-will” employment state, meaning either the employer or the employee can terminate the employment relationship at any time and for any reason, provided it’s not for an illegal reason (such as discrimination). If terminated, employees might be eligible for unemployment benefits, provided they meet specific criteria.
  • Safety and Health: While specific state guidelines in Alabama might not be quite extensive, the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) standards still firmly apply, ensuring that employers consistently provide a safe working environment for the employees.

What are the Provided Hourly Employee Protections Under Alabama State Law?

Like many other states, Alabama does not have extensive state-specific labor laws that differ significantly from federal guidelines provided by the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). The state generally follows federal law when it comes to protections for hourly employees regarding aspects like minimum wage and overtime pay. However, there are a few areas where Alabama provides specific protections, especially in the realm of child labor and discrimination:

  • Child Labor: Alabama state law requires minors to have a child labor certificate before they can work. The law also restricts the number of hours and times of day that a minor can work and lists occupations too dangerous for minors to undertake. For instance, 14- and 15-year-olds cannot work during school hours, no more than 3 hours on a school day, and not before 7 a.m. or after 7 p.m. This protection seeks to prioritize the education and safety of young workers.
  • Discrimination and Harassment: Alabama state law provides protections against workplace discrimination and harassment, though some aspects align with federal protections like those found in the Civil Rights Act, ADA, and ADEA. Employers cannot discriminate based on race, color, religion, sex, disability, or national origin. Alabama has certain specifications for filing discrimination claims, and employees should utilize the Alabama state process, which involves notifying the Equal Employment Office, ensuring a formal review.
  • Leave and Unemployment: Alabama does not mandate employers to provide paid leave, but if they choose to, they must stick to the established policy or employment contract. Additionally, if an employee finds themselves unemployed through no fault of their own (e.g. company downsizing or layoffs), they may be eligible for unemployment benefits through the Alabama Department of Labor, which serves to provide some financial security during the transition.
  • Voting Leave: Alabama law mandates that employees must be provided with up to one hour of unpaid leave to vote in any municipal, county, state, or federal election, as long as they provide reasonable notice and their work schedule would otherwise prevent them from voting. This ensures that employees can execute their civic duty without fear of reprisal or penalty.

Termination of Employment in Alabama

What are the Termination Laws for Hourly Employees in Alabama?

Understanding your rights and obligations when it comes to termination laws is crucial, especially if you’re an hourly employee in Alabama. Without further ado, let’s delve into the primary areas that pertain to termination laws for hourly employees in the state.

  • At-Will Employment Doctrine: Alabama operates under the “at-will” employment doctrine, which means that unless there is a written contract or other stipulation that provides otherwise, either the employer or the employee may end the employment relationship at any time and for any reason, as long as it’s not illegal. For hourly employees, this translates to the ability of your employer to terminate your employment without providing advanced notice or a reason, just as you can choose to quit your job at any time without providing any rationale.
  • Discrimination Protections: Even with the at-will employment doctrine in place, employers in Alabama cannot terminate employees for discriminatory reasons. Termination based on race, color, national origin, religion, gender, disability, or age (for those 40 and over) is prohibited under federal laws like the Civil Rights Act, Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADA). If an hourly employee believes they were terminated by the employer for a discriminatory reason, they may file a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) or the Alabama Department of Labor.
  • Retaliation Protections: Employers are not allowed to terminate an employee in retaliation for certain “protected activities.” For instance, if an hourly employee files a complaint about harassment or unsafe working conditions or if they become a whistleblower on illegal employer activities, they are protected under federal law from retaliatory termination. Employees who believe they’ve been terminated for such reasons may have grounds to file a lawsuit.
  • Final Paycheck Laws: Alabama does not have a specific state law regarding when terminated employees must receive their final paycheck. However, according to the U.S. Department of Labor, if the regular payday for the last pay period an employee worked has passed and the employee has not been paid, the employee should immediately contact the Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division or may file a lawsuit in court to recover the lost wages.
  • Unemployment Benefits: If an hourly employee is terminated through no fault of their own (layoffs or downsizing), they may be eligible for unemployment benefits through the Alabama Department of Labor. The employees should ensure they meet the state’s eligibility requirements, which typically involve having worked a certain amount of time and earned a certain amount before being terminated, and they should be actively seeking new employment.
  • WARN Act (For Mass Layoffs): The federal Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act is applicable in cases where employers (with 100 or more hourly (and salaried) employees lay off a large number of workers. The Act requires employers to provide 60 days’ written notice of the intention to lay off more than 50 employees during any 30-day period.

Should Severance Pay Be Provided to Hourly Employees in Alabama?

Alabama state law does not mandate employers to provide severance pay to hourly employees, upon termination or layoffs. The state generally adheres to the “employment-at-will” doctrine, which allows both employers and employees to terminate employment at any time, for any reason. Thus, unless there is an existing contract, agreement, or policy that stipulates severance pay, employers are not legally obliged to offer it when terminating an hourly employee.

Final Thoughts

Understanding your rights as an hourly employee in Alabama is pivotal for a fair working experience. Navigating through the varied facets of employment—from wages and workplace safety to termination laws—empowers you to stand firm in your employment rights. Remember, staying informed about both state and federal laws, constantly checking for updates, and seeking professional advice when in doubt ensure that you remain proactive in your journey. 

Important Cautionary Note

This content is provided for informational purposes only. While we make every effort to ensure the accuracy of the information presented, we cannot guarantee that it is free of errors or omissions. Users are advised to independently verify any critical information and should not solely rely on the content provided.