From nap pods and subsidized massages to a non-descript office filled with cubicles, you might be surprised to know that while some swanky perks are just an incentive to be more productive, there are some convenient office perks that your employers are required by law to provide. In this article, we differentiate what your employer can or can’t do under the provided labor laws in the United States as per work perks.
1. Provide Competitive Benefits
Should they? It’s not legally required, but they should.
By law, an employer should provide you with either a salary or wages, health insurance (only if they have 50 or more employees), FICA contributions, medical and vacation leave, and several types of insurance. Beyond those basic benefits, though, providing more benefits (there are the “competitive benefits” advertised in job postings) is the employer’s prerogative.
That means the Department of Labor won’t put your employer in handcuffs simply because your health insurance doesn’t cover massages and yoga classes. If you work full-time in a company with 50 or more employees, you are entitled to company-sponsored health insurance, but there isn’t a specific policy of how covered you and your dependents should be.
However, in this day and age, cost-cutting by providing the basic benefits isn’t going to cut it anymore. Gone are the days when companies can pick from a large pool of applicants fighting for a position; nowadays, employees have more freedom to choose whether or not they want to work for a company, and a basic benefits package isn’t going to look very enticing on the job market.
You’d be surprised how the option of flexible work options, casual Fridays, more vacation and sick days allowance than legally required, and free meals every month can help a company reel in better, more loyal employees.
2. Ask Discriminating Interview Questions
Can they? No.
You apply for a job and come to an interview because you believe you have the necessary skills or experience to fill up the position. If your sex, age, religion, nationality, race, or marital status won’t affect the quality of your work (e.g. the role for a bathroom attendant in a female’s restroom will require someone of the same sex), then your employer isn’t allowed to ask questions about these.
While some of these can be fairly obvious at a glance (e.g. you can tell if a person is young or old, black or white, or even married by a ring on their finger), an employer cannot make decisions based on those factors. As an employee, however, you can choose to give this information voluntarily, but if you don’t feel comfortable answering the question, you have the right to refuse.
However, most HR departments and seasoned employers know these are illegal questions, so you don’t have to worry. Expect interview questions to focus on your capabilities for the position, your work ethic, and how well you can work on your own or with a team.
3. Provide Clean Drinking Water
Should they? Yes.
If you find that your office’s water cooler is constantly getting empty, there’s never enough water bottles to last throughout the day, or you and your employees always end up buying bottled water from the closest 7-11 from your office, you have grounds to complain, even if it seems like a minor inconvenience. However, not everyone can bring enough water for the day, and not everyone has the money to buy water every time they go to work.
Dehydration can lead to fatigue, loss of concentration, headaches, and in some cases is the cause of low blood pressure. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration requires businesses to provide a safe and healthy working environment, so, as work perks, your employer, regardless of your business’ nature, must provide clean drinking water enough for everyone in the company, as well as a sink for everyone’s use.
4. Force You to Work Overtime (and Not Pay You for It)
Can they? Yes, but with exemptions.
Under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), employees are entitled to be paid 1.5 times their regular rate for every hour they do overtime. There is a minimum number of hours you have to work to be considered working full-time, but because there is no maximum, an employer can force you to work overtime.
In some cases, your employer may be required to pay you for overtime. You may also negotiate on your contract how much overtime they can ask from you or whether or not they should pay you for overtime even if they’re not legally obligated to do so.
That’s right: in some cases of work perks, employers aren’t required to pay overtime. Employees that work by the hour are entitled to overtime pay because they’re working by the hour and providing their own time to work. However, most people who work on a fixed salary are not entitled to overtime. Salaried employees are still entitled to overtime if the company finds that your job’s duties require overtime, or if the company chooses to go beyond their legal obligations and compensate their employees for their time.
5. Pay You If Their Business Was Closed for a Day Due to Calamities
Should they? Yes, but only for salaried workers.
Let’s say that a hurricane, wildfire, or any natural disaster struck your city. Everyone was greatly affected, including you, your co-workers, and your higher-ups. No one is capable of going back to work the next day, and your company doesn’t need to be open at a time like this. However, does that mean your employer has to pay you your salary for the day even if they did not open the office?
According to the FLSA, they have to pay you for the day according to the work perks. If your company was prepared, they will contact you and assure you that your job is safe even if you don’t come to work. Non-exempt employees are entitled to their salary even if a disaster temporarily closes the business or they are incapable of attending work. Even if your employer closes the workplace for six days, you are entitled to your salary during those six days.
However, if the business was closed for over one full workweek, your employer does not need to pay you. They may choose to do so as a sign of care from an employer to their employee, but they aren’t legally obligated as they too are suffering from the aftermath.
This also only applies to exempt employees on a salary. Employees who work hourly or are non-exempt are not entitled to pay. If the disaster happened in your city, but the city your company is in is alright and the company remains open, the company can deduct your leaves as a personal or vacation leave or deduct from your salary as an absence.
If you feel like your employer has treated you unfairly with the work perks, you have some laws created to protect your right as an employee. Some states have additional labor laws that protect employees’ rights, so feel free to contact your local labor division or a lawyer to discuss any grievances you might want to bring up against your company.