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The Fair Labor Standards Act, along with most state laws, simply defines an employee as someone "employed by an employer." In other words, if someone works for an employer, that person is probably an employee. The laws do recognize a few non-employee classifications, such as volunteers for civic or non-profit organizations, independent contractors (who are often self-employed), and interns who come to the workplace for their own educational benefit. If an individual does not fit one of these non-employee categories, however, the worker is probably an employee.
Employers commonly use classifications to define the employment relationship. These might include categories to define pay ranges and promotions (Technician 1, Technician 2, etc.) or they may describe the expected working relationship (full time, part time, seasonal, etc.). These terms are commonly adopted to determine eligibility for various benefits. For example, part time employees might have to pay a higher group health insurance premium, or might not be eligible to participate. Seasonal employees might not be eligible for earned vacation.
Despite the common use of terms such as full time and part time, there is no legal definition for these categories. Employers may define these terms however they choose, and that definition does not need to list a specified number of hours. For instance, one employer might define full time as 40 or more hours, another might define it as 35 or more hours, and a third might define it based on the job description. Thus, if the job expectations include eight hours per day, five days per week, the position is full time. If a position does not require that much time (perhaps six hours per day, or four days per week) the position might be classified as part time.
This has caused many employers to question when an employee's status must be changed. If a part-time employee is working 40 or more hours, at what point should the status be changed to full time? Since there isn't a legal definition, there isn't a specific obligation to change the employee's status after a specified period of time. Likewise, a full time employee might be working reduced hours for several months due to lack of business, but could still be considered full time during that period.
Part time employees commonly work longer hours during certain periods, which may last weeks or months, but if the overall expectations have not changed, they can remain part time. For instance, if the employer's expectations are that the extra work is temporary, and the expected hours (over the course of a year) will support the part time classification, the employee can remain "part time" even while working 40 or more hours per week. However, if the employer expects the longer hours to continue for a substantial amount of time (up to a year or more) the organization should consider changing the classification and offering the benefits of the full time status.
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['Wage and Hour', 'Employee Relations']
['Hours Worked', 'Employee Relations', 'Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA)']
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