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When Wage Laws Apply

Federal, state, and local laws regulate wages in Michigan. Depending on the type of employment, some employers, employees, and work-related activities might not be covered by those laws.

When Are Employers and Employees Covered?

The Fair Labor Standard Act (FLSA) sets a minimum wage and overtime wage for workers in the U.S. The Michigan Workforce Opportunity Wage Act (WOWA) sets the minimum wage for Michigan workers. But not all employers and employees are covered by the FLSA and WOWA.

Covered Employers

The FLSA generally applies to employers who have at least two employees and gross $500,000 or more a year. This means if your employer’s business grosses less than $500,000 a year or you are the only employee, the FLSA might not cover your job.  Your employer may still be covered if the company is engaged in interstate commerce (sells products or services to more than one state). 

Unlike the FLSA, the WOWA applies to all Michigan employers who have two or more employees at any time during a calendar year. This means many more employers are covered by the WOWA than the FLSA. However, if you are the only employee for a whole calendar year, the WOWA might not apply to you.

Employees That Are Not Covered

There are groups of employees that are exempt (not covered) from the wage and overtime rates of both the FLSA and WOWA. Here are a few common groups of employees not covered by the FLSA:

  • Executive, administrative, professional, and outside sales employees who make at least $684 per week (annual salary of $35,578). 

  • Computer professionals who make a salary of at least $684 per week or who are paid at least $27.63 per hour.

  • Certain farmworkers

  • Commissioned salespeople

To learn whether you are covered, visit the U.S. Department of Labor website section on employee exemptions.

The WOWA has exemptions to overtime rules for executive, administrative, or professional employees who make at least $684 per week ($35,578 annually). Farmworkers are also not covered.

What to Do If the FLSA and WOWA Don’t Apply

If you are not being properly paid for your work, it’s easiest to make a complaint under the FLSA or WOWA. If you or your employer are not covered under the FLSA or WOWA you can’t do this. You may want to talk to a lawyer. Use the Guide to Legal Help to find lawyers and legal services in your area.

What Work-Related Activities Should I Be Paid For?

Wage laws require your employer to pay you for all hours that you work. But when it comes to breaks, holiday pay, and certain work-related activities, things can get complicated.


Federal and Michigan wage and hour laws do not require employers to give you meal and rest breaks. Occupational Safety and Health laws do require that employees be permitted time to use restrooms. Wage and hour laws also do not directly say whether you must be paid during such breaks. However, when meal and rest breaks are given by an employer, federal wage and hour laws require employers to pay employees during short restroom and rest breaks (5 to 20 minutes). The regulations do not require employers to pay wages during “bona fide meal breaks.” A bona fide meal break is when an employee is free of any work duties once the break begins. This break must last at least 30 minutes, and be uninterrupted. So, if you can be called back to do work during a meal break, then you should be paid for time spent on the break.

Holiday Pay, Sick Leave, and Paid Vacations

Neither federal nor Michigan wage and hour laws require employers to pay you higher wages to work on weekends or holidays. They also do not require employers to give paid sick leave or vacation time. However, employers can offer these benefits or they may be included in employment contracts. If you are entitled to these benefits through your employer’s written policy or your employment contract, and your employer denies them, you may be able to sue your employer for breach of contract. You might also be able to file a complaint with the Michigan Wage and Hour Program. To learn more, read Filing a Wage Lawsuit in State or Federal Court and Filing a Complaint with the Michigan Wage and Hour Program.

The Michigan Payment of Wages and Fringe Benefits Act (PWFBA) requires employers to pay employees for earned but unused vacation days left at the end of their employment. If you have unused, earned vacation from a former job and that employer refuses to pay you, you can file a complaint with the Michigan Wage and Hour Program. To learn more about filing complaints, read Filing a Complaint with the Michigan Wage and Hour Program.

Special Rules for Some Work-Related Activities

There are special rules for whether you should be paid for doing something related to your employment that is not your main task. Here are some examples that could help you:

  • Generally, you won’t get paid for travelling between home and work. But you should get paid for time spent travelling for special assignments or if travel is part of your main work activity.

  • Whether you should get paid for waiting time (for example, to punch-in or not for assignments) depends on whether you are “engaged to wait” or “waiting to be engaged.” You should be paid if you are engaged to wait. If you have an employment contract, this might be covered in it. If not, you may want to speak with a lawyer to help you. Use the Guide to Legal Help to find lawyers and legal services in your area.

  • You should get paid for being on-call when you are required to stay on your employer's premises or when your employer significantly restricts your activities. If you are allowed to be at home and engage in personal activities until called, generally you won’t get paid for being on-call.

  • Typically, you won’t get paid for time spent putting on and taking off uniforms and equipment before and after work. If the uniform or equipment is “integral and indispensable” to the performance of your job, then you may be entitled to payment for time spent putting it on. Integral and indispensable means wearing such items must be absolutely necessary for you to be able to do your main work activities.

Sometimes it is hard to figure out if you should get paid for these and similar types of activities. If you have questions about whether you should be getting paid for certain work-related activities, you may want to speak with a lawyer. You can use the Guide to Legal Help to find lawyers and legal services in your area.