Compliance Watch:
What are my rights as a salaried employee in Hawaii?

April 11th 2024

Having a firm grasp of your legal rights as a salaried employee is of great significance. A comprehensive understanding of the labor laws applicable to your role as a salaried worker not only empowers you in your workplace but also serves as a protective measure to ensure your well-being.

As you dedicate yourself to your daily work responsibilities, the compensation provided by your employer assumes a pivotal role in shaping your professional trajectory. It is essential to acknowledge that the specifics of these arrangements can vary significantly when you transition to different states within the United States.

This article aims to provide clarity on your employment entitlements, guiding you towards a more informed and confident professional journey. We will specifically focus on the distinct labor regulations in the state of Hawaii.

This Article Covers

Defining a Salaried Employee in Hawaii
Common Questions About Salaried Employee Rights in Hawaii
Understanding Exempt vs. Non-Exempt Status in Hawaii
Wage and Hour Regulations in Hawaii
Deductions, Benefits, and Protections in Hawaii
Taking Action Against Violations in Hawaii
Case Studies and Real-Life Scenarios of Salaried Employee Rights Violations in Hawaii

Defining a Salaried Employee in Hawaii

What is Salaried Employment in Hawaii?

In Hawaii, a salaried worker is defined as an individual who regularly receives a predetermined salary from their employer. Employers in Hawaii are obligated to provide payment to their salaried staff on a weekly, biweekly, or monthly basis, regardless of the number of hours they put in each week.

The classification of salaried employment in Hawaii is dependent upon overtime eligibility. Some salaried employees are exempt from receiving overtime compensation. These particular employees, which include professionals, executives, and administrative personnel, are not entitled to overtime pay and will receive the same salary, even if they surpass 40 hours of work within a single work week. Conversely, non-exempt employees in Hawaii have the opportunity to receive overtime pay for any hours worked beyond the 40-hour threshold in a given workweek.

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

Aspect Salaried Employees Hourly Employees
Compensation Basis Receive a fixed salary bi-weekly. Paid per hour.
Overtime Typically exempt from overtime laws and overtime pay with a few exceptions. Typically eligible for overtime pay for time worked beyond 40 hours in one workweek.
Work Schedule Typically work a fixed number of hours per week as stated on the employee’s contract or based on agreement with the employer. May work variable hours.
Job Security More job security due to a stable income, comprehensive contracts, and protections by federal and state laws. Less job security due to fluctuating work hours and changes in demand.
Exempt/Non-Exempt Status May be classified as exempt from certain labor laws such as overtime pay depending on job duties and amount of compensation. Typically classified as non-exempt and eligible for overtime.
Skill Levels Typically have specialized skills, education, or experience. Employee skills vary from entry-level to skilled labor.
Employment Regulations Subject to federal laws such as the FLSA and the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) in addition to select state labor laws.  Subject to the state labor laws, including overtime, minimum wage, and wage and hour laws. 
Minimum Wage Subject to either the state minimum wage or the federal minimum salary threshold for exempt employees. Subject to the state minimum wage of $14 per hour. 

If you’d like to know more about Hawaii labor laws,  you can access our guides on your rights as an hourly employee and salaried employee laws.

Common Questions About Salaried Employee Rights in Hawaii

What are the Basic Rights of Salaried Employees in Hawaii?

It’s  crucial for employees to grasp a deep understanding of Hawaii salaried employees laws. Salaried employees in Hawaii get to enjoy basic rights to use as a safeguard in the workplace. These rights include:

  • Safety and Health: Employees have the right to a safe workplace under Hawaii’s state safety program (HIOSH), with aligned federal regulations.
  • Whistleblower Protection: Protection from retaliation when reporting violations or safety concerns to employers or public bodies.
  • Background Check Privacy: Employers cannot inquire about criminal history until after a job offer is made, except when relevant to the position.
  • Drug and Alcohol Testing: Employers can conduct tests using specific methods and approved labs.
  • Social Media Privacy: Employers can’t request login information or alter settings but can access publicly available information and investigate workplace safety threats.
  • COBRA and Health Coverage: COBRA allows continued health coverage for employees leaving their jobs or experiencing certain life events. Hawaii also has H-COBRA for specific cases.
  • Recordkeeping: Employers must maintain certain records related to salaried employees, with details varying by industry and employment type.
  • Pay Transparency: Employers are required to explicitly state the hourly rate or salary range for a job posting. This applies to employers with 50 or more workers.

Is Overtime Pay Applicable to Salaried Employees in Hawaii?

Certain salaried employees in Hawaii might be exempt from overtime eligibility and that depends on several factors, including their salary level and job roles. Hawaii labor laws categorize them as follows:

  • Salaried employees who receive a guaranteed monthly compensation of $2,000 or more are generally exempt from overtime pay requirements, regardless of their pay frequency. In other words, they are not entitled to overtime pay.
  • Salaried employees engaged in bona fide executive, administrative, supervisory, or professional roles, as well as those involved in outside sales or collection activities, are also exempt from overtime pay requirements.

Additionally, it’s important to note that some agricultural employers in Hawaii may not be required to pay overtime compensation for specific workweeks during the year. This exemption applies to employers involved in agricultural activities like processing dairy products, sugar cane, agricultural or horticultural commodities, poultry or livestock handling. It also includes employers in agriculture whose products are processed by an employer involved in seasonal pursuits or processing, canning, or packing operations, and those primarily engaged in the initial processing, canning, or packing of seasonal fresh fruits. For a comprehensive understanding of this topic, you can access our guide on Hawaii overtime laws.

Can Employers Deduct Wages from Salaried Employees in Hawaii?

No. Employers cannot deduct or require payment from employees’ earnings except as mandated by law or with written consent. Certain deductions are strictly prohibited. These deductions are:

  • Fines: Employers are not allowed to fine employees.
  • Cash Shortages: Deductions for cash shortages are only allowed if employees can account for funds.
  • Breakage Costs: Deductions for breakage are not allowed.
  • Dishonored Checks: Deductions for checks dishonored after being accepted by employees are not allowed.
  • Various Losses: Deductions for losses due to various reasons are prohibited unless not caused by employee misconduct.
  • Medical Expenses: Employers can’t require employees to pay for medical examinations or reports, except as required by law or regulation.

Are Salaried Employees Eligible for Breaks and Leaves in Hawaii?

Employees in Hawaii are not entitled to regular employee breaks. However, minors aged 14 and 15 are allowed a 30-minute break every 5 hours of work. If an employer does decide to provide breaks, when an employee works through a 30-minute lunch break, the hours must be counted as part of a work day. 

In Hawaii, salaried employees have access to various types of leave based on state and federal regulations. These include:

  • Paid Sick Leave: It is compulsory to provide paid sick leave to employees. The leave is accrued at one hour for every 40 hours worked. 
  • Family Leave: Employers with a workforce of at least 100 employees in Hawaii must extend paid or unpaid family leave to employees who have completed a minimum of 6 months of service. Additionally, the Federal Family and Medical Leave Act permits up to 12 weeks of family leave for various reasons.
  • Jury Duty Leave: Employers are not compelled to provide compensation for jury duty leave. Nevertheless, they cannot take adverse actions against employees for taking this leave, and any payments received from the government for jury duty are not regarded as part of an employee’s regular salary.
  • Paid Voting Time: Employers must allocate 2 hours of paid time off for employees to vote, specifically between 7 a.m. and 6 p.m. Exceptions apply for employees whose work schedules already encompass this time frame (9 a.m. to 5 p.m.), enabling them to vote without requiring additional time off.
  • Leave for Domestic Violence or Sexual Assault Victims: Employees at companies with 50 or more employees are entitled to a maximum of 30 days of unpaid leave if they or their underage child have experienced domestic or sexual abuse. Smaller companies are mandated to offer 5 days of unpaid leave for similar circumstances.
  • Emergency Response Leave: In the event of a level 3 or higher disaster, declared a state of emergency by both the US President and the Governor, state employees may receive up to 30 days of paid leave for their contributions to the American Red Cross.
  • Leave for Organ and Bone Marrow Donation: Employers are required to grant paid leave for employees donating bone marrow, up to a maximum of 7 days, and for organ donation, up to 30 days.
  • Military Leave: Employers must approve military leave for National Guard employees in Hawaii, following the federal Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA).

Can Salaried Employees Request Flexible Work Arrangements in Hawaii?

In the state of Hawaii, there exist established policies and protocols designed to facilitate adaptable work schedules for both part-time and full-time employees working in the public sector.

The objective of these measures is to enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of the services rendered to the public. The responsibility of formulating a well-suited plan for flexible working hours lies with program managers and department heads, who are tasked with evaluating the specific requirements of their respective organizations.

Understanding Exempt vs. Non-Exempt Status in Hawaii

What is the Definition and Implications of Exempt Status in Hawaii?

In Hawaii, the term “exempt” pertains to the classification of certain employees who are exempt from specific labor regulations, particularly those related to overtime pay and other related provisions.

Exempt employees in Hawaii, much like in the majority of U.S. states, are typically salaried employees who are exempt from overtime regulations as defined by the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).

The implications and advantages of this exempt status in Hawaii include:

  • Salary Cap: While a guaranteed minimum salary is provided, the potential for significant income growth over time may be limited, in contrast to roles with variable compensation structures like hourly wages or commissions.
  • High Stress and Responsibility: With autonomy and authority come increased responsibilities, which can potentially lead to high levels of workplace pressure and stress.
  • Limited Job Autonomy and Responsibility: Exempt positions may come with less decision-making authority and reduced responsibilities, limiting employees’ opportunities to take on leadership roles and have a significant impact on their organizations.
  • Benefits and Perks: Exempt employees often have access to a broader range of benefits such as health insurance, retirement plans, and paid time off, enhancing their overall compensation and well-being.
  • Job Security and Legal Protections: Exempt status typically provides stronger legal protections, ensuring job security and offering safeguards in cases of workplace disputes, discrimination, or wrongful termination.
  • Professional Growth: Employers may invest in the professional development of exempt employees through training and educational opportunities, allowing them to enhance their skills and advance in their careers.
  • Minimum Salary Guarantee: Exempt employees in Hawaii are typically guaranteed a minimum salary per FLSA standards, providing financial security and ensuring a baseline income level.

What are the Differences Between Exempt and Non-Exempt Salaried Employees in Hawaii?

Aspect Exempt Employees Non-exempt Employees
Entitlements Exempt employees are not entitled to overtime pay. Entitled to overtime pay.
Minimum Wage Exempt employees are entitled to a minimum hourly wage of $14. Non-exempt employees receive at least minimum hourly wage.
Overtime Compensation Exempt employees do not qualify for overtime pay. Non-exempt employees receive overtime pay at 1.5 times their regular rate for specific hours.
Meal and Rest Breaks Employers are not legally required to provide rest or meal breaks to their employees. Employers are not legally required to provide rest or meal breaks to their employees 
Salary and Status Interaction Exempt status typically includes a salary surpassing the minimum wage. Non-exempt status typically adheres to minimum wage laws and other legal protections.

How to Determine if You're Exempt or Non-Exempt in Hawaii?

To determine whether you fall under the category of an exempt or non-exempt worker in Hawaii, it is crucial to follow the guidelines outlined in the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA):

  • Examination of Salary Threshold: If your monthly earnings exceed $2,000, you may qualify for an exempt status.
  • Assessment of Salary Basis: If you receive a fixed minimum payment irrespective of the hours worked, you could potentially meet the criteria for being considered an exempt employee.
  • Evaluation of Job Responsibilities: To be eligible for exempt status, you must satisfy the requirements of the first two criteria and also hold a position that falls within the exempt job categories. These responsibilities may encompass duties like supervising administrative tasks, regularly overseeing two or more employees, engaging in professional work that demands specific education, and making substantial decisions based on your judgment.

Wage and Hour Regulations in Hawaii

What are the Minimum Wage Requirements for Salaried Employees in Hawaii?

In Hawaii, the current minimum wage for adult employees stands at $14 per hour. Employees who are under the age of 20 may be paid a subminimum wage of $4.25 for the initial 90 days of their employment.

Meanwhile, full-time high school or college student workers have the right to receive a minimum wage of $11.9 per hour, not less than 85% of the regular minimum wage, provided they work up to 20 hours per week. Lastly, tipped employees are entitled to receive a minimum wage of $12.75 per hour.

How is Overtime Compensated for Salaried Employees in Hawaii?

In Hawaii, individuals working more than 40 hours per week qualify for a compensation rate equal to 1.5 times their regular hourly wage for each hour worked beyond this limit during a specific week.

Considering that the minimum wage in the state of Hawaii is currently set at $14 per hour, this signifies that the minimum overtime rate would amount to $21 per hour.

Deductions, Benefits, and Protections in Hawaii

What are the Permissible Deductions from Salaried Employee Pay in Hawaii?

In Hawaii, approved deductions from salaried employees generally encompass taxes like income, Social Security, and Medicare, along with deductions chosen by the employee, such as contributions to retirement plans and health insurance premiums.

Additionally, court-mandated obligations, like child support, as well as deductions for union dues when the employee is a union member, and deductions related to debts owed to the employer with the necessary legal authorization are also considered to be permissible deductions. These deductions must adhere to labor laws, refrain from lowering an employee’s salary below the minimum wage threshold, and obtain written consent from the employee.

What are the Provided Employee Benefits and Protections Under Hawaii State Law?

Hawaii has implemented various laws and regulations to ensure that employees are provided with certain benefits and protections. Some of the key employee benefits and protections under Hawaii laws include:

  • Employees are entitled to receive a minimum wage of $14 per hour.
  • Employees who work more than 40 hours in a workweek are entitled to receive overtime pay at a rate of 1.5 times their regular hourly wage.
  • Minors are allowed a 30-minute break every 5 hours of work.
  • Hawaii follows the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), which allows eligible employees to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave in 12 months for certain family or medical reasons.
  • Employees who suffer work-related injuries or illnesses are eligible for workers’ compensation benefits, which include medical treatment and wage replacement.
  • Hawaii law prohibits discrimination based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, disability, age, and other protected characteristics. Employers are required to provide equal employment opportunities.
  • Hawaii law protects employees from retaliation for reporting illegal activities or unsafe working conditions in their workplace.
  • For employees who lose their jobs, health insurance coverage may be eligible to grant security under the federal COBRA law.

Taking Action Against Violations in Hawaii

How to Report Violations to Authorities or Labor Departments in Hawaii?

Employees in the state of Hawaii have the right to submit a confidential safety and health complaint and formally request an inspection by the Hawaii Occupational Safety and Health Division (HIOSH) if you suspect the presence of a significant workplace hazard or suspect that your employer is not adhering to HIOSH standards. It is advisable to initiate the complaint process promptly upon recognizing the hazard, as a duly signed complaint is more likely to trigger an on-site inspection.

Furthermore, if your employer has taken retaliatory actions against you for exercising your rights as an employee, you also have the right to file a whistleblower complaint with HIOSH. It is worth noting that employees hold the option to file complaints with both the Federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and HIOSH.

Case Studies and Real-Life Scenarios of Salaried Employee Rights Violations in Hawaii

Sexual Harassment in the Workplace: Hawaii Company Gets Sued by EEOC for Sexually Harassing Male Employees

A Honolulu restaurant, Square Barrels, and its outsourced human resources company, Altres, have been sued by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) for violating federal law through sexual harassment of male employees. The EEOC alleges that since 2018, one of the co-owners of Square Barrels sexually harassed male employees by exposing his genitals in the workplace and making repeated sexual comments related to the male employees’ sexual orientation. Square Barrels and Altres are accused of failing to conduct a proper investigation, which resulted in the harassment not being addressed or rectified. This alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits a hostile work environment based on sex, including sexual harassment.

In this sexual harassment case, the EEOC filed a lawsuit against Surfeit Group LLC, Aged Artisans LLC doing business as Square Barrels, and Altres, Inc. doing business as SimplicityHR in the U.S. District Court for Hawaii after attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through the conciliation process. The EEOC seeks monetary damages for the claimants, including compensatory and punitive damages, and injunctive relief against the companies to prevent such unlawful conduct in the future.

Lessons Learned from the Case 

  • Equal Liability for Employers: The case underscores the idea that employers bear responsibility for creating a workplace free from harassment, even when the harasser is a co-owner or high-ranking individual within the organization. A power imbalance within the workplace does not exempt the employer from liability.
  • Document and Preserve Evidence: In cases of workplace harassment, employers must document and preserve evidence of their investigations and actions taken. A lack of adequate investigation can lead to legal consequences. Proper record-keeping and maintaining a clear trail of how harassment complaints were handled can help protect the employer’s interests.
  • Serious Approach to Harassment Complaints: Employers should take all reports of harassment seriously and address them promptly. Fostering a culture of trust and support within an organization is essential to encourage employees to come forward with such complaints, and it helps prevent the escalation of workplace harassment issues.

Violation of Overtime Laws: Hawaii Company Pays $117k in Back Wages for Denied Overtime Pay.

The U.S. Department of Labor investigated and took legal action against the United Fishing Agency, a seafood trader based in Hawaii, for violating the Fair Labor Standards Act. In the DOL vs. United Fishing Agency case, the investigation revealed that the employer had denied 33 workers their rightfully earned overtime wages by failing to include bonuses in the calculation of their overtime pay.

These bonuses were provided to encourage employee productivity. Additionally, the employer failed to maintain accurate payroll records, another violation of labor standards. As a result of these violations, the employer owed the workers $58,859 in unpaid overtime wages and an equal amount in liquidated damages. In addition to the back wages and damages, United Fishing Agency was assessed $14,805 in civil money penalties due to the reckless nature of these violations.

Lessons Learned from the Case

  • Proper Overtime Calculations: Employers should accurately calculate overtime wages by including all eligible components, such as bonuses, shift pay, and on-call pay. This ensures that employees are compensated fairly for their extra hours of work.
  • Accurate Record-Keeping: Maintaining accurate payroll records is crucial to complying with labor standards. Failing to do so not only violates regulations but can also lead to financial penalties and damage to a company’s reputation.
  • Employee Education and Compliance: Employers should make use of educational resources provided by labor authorities to stay informed about labor laws and standards. Ensuring compliance with these regulations not only prevents costly violations but also promotes a fair and respectful work environment.

Final Thoughts

In the state of Hawaii, it is crucial to have a deep understanding of your legal rights and protections. This knowledge is not only essential for safeguarding yourself against potential violations but also for empowering you to effectively advocate for your well-being.

Remaining well-informed about any changes or updates to labor laws is vital for creating a positive workplace environment. Due to the complexity of employment regulations, it is highly recommended to seek expert guidance. You can achieve this by consulting with an employment attorney, reaching out to the U.S. Department of Labor, or seeking counsel from the Office of the Labor Commissioner. These resources offer valuable information and assistance to help you navigate the legal landscape with proficiency.

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.