As an employee in Alaska, you are protected by federal and state laws throughout the employment process from hiring through discharge. Here are some things you should know:

The Hiring Process

Most people are made aware of job opportunities through newsprint ads, Internet postings, and services that list jobs for particular industries. These ads may not legally disqualify applicants based on age, race, sex, disability, religion, or national origin.

At job interviews, employers are prohibited from asking certain questions related to personal characteristics such as age, pregnancy, marital status, children, sexual orientation, or certain arrest records.

Minimum Wage Laws and Overtime

Federal Wage and Overtime Laws

Most, but not all, workers are covered by the Fair Labor Standards Act. Federal overtime law does not apply to certain employees paid on a salary basis of at least $455 weekly or to those engaged in recreational or seasonal businesses, small farms, fishing operations, independent contractors, outside salespersons, along with some others.

State Wage and Overtime Laws

As of January 2013, Alaska sets its minimum wage at $7.75 per hour. Employees who work at least 40 hours per week or more than eight hours in a day must receive overtime pay unless exempted as indicated above. Tipped employees must be paid the minimum hourly wage.

Your Work Environment

All employers under federal and state Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) laws must provide a safe work environment. An employee who complains about a hazardous work condition is protected from being disciplined or dismissed from his job as a result.

Workers’ Compensation

Workers’ compensation is a system of insurance that provides benefits to workers injured on the job. There is no requirement that an employer be negligent in causing the injury; the worker could have caused his own injury and still be eligible for benefits. Workers’ compensation pays for medical expenses, rehabilitation costs, wage losses up to a certain amount, disability, and death benefits to the families of workers killed on the job.

All businesses in Alaska must participate in workers’ compensation. Those exempt include babysitters, domestic or cleaning personnel, contract labor workers, and agricultural workers. Learn more about workers' compensation frequently asked questions.

Getting Time Off

Federal and state laws regulate when employees are entitled to time off.

Family and Medical Leave

Federal law allows those employed in a company of at least 50 workers within 75 miles and who have worked for at least 12 months or 1,250 hours in the past year to take up to 12 weeks of leave within a 12-month period. This leave can be granted to care for the employee or a family member with a serious health condition or for a newborn or newly adopted child. The employee’s health and other benefits, as well as the position, must be maintained until the employee returns to work.

Alaska law permits similar medical leave if you worked for a company that employed at least 20 people within 50 road miles and you worked at least 35 hours per week for at least six months or 17.5 hours for 12 consecutive months. You are provided up to 18 weeks of unpaid leave.

Voting and Jury Duty

The state requires employers to allow workers as much time off to vote as required and for unpaid leave for jury duty. Employees may not be threatened, coerced or fired for serving on a jury.

Harassment

Federal laws prohibit harassment of any kind in the workplace under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Any verbal or physical activity that taunts, threatens, or engages in unwelcome comments, and which is pervasive or severe enough to create a hostile work environment is outlawed. A supervisor’s harassment that results in terminating, disciplining, or demoting an employee is also illegal.

Examples of harassing behavior in the workplace include: making lewd comments or jokes; displaying sexually explicit drawings or photos; leering; constantly asking an employee out by email or verbally; or engaging in offensive or unwelcome physical contact.

In addition to sexual harassment, unlawful workplace behavior can include negative comments about a person’s color, national origin, disability, race, gender, or religion.

Termination of Employment

Employees who work without contracts in Alaska, are considered "at-will" employees and may be terminated without reason or notice as long as it is not for a prohibited discriminatory reason such as a civil rights violation or as a result of harassment by a supervisor.

There is no federal law requiring employees to pay discharged employees unpaid vacation time. But an at-will employee might still be able to collect the value of unpaid vacation time if the employer has a policy of regularly allowing employees to do so.

Post-Employment Benefits

Unemployment insurance: Eligible employees must have earned a total gross income of at least $2,500 over two calendar quarters of their base period and have lost their employment through no fault of their own.

COBRA insurance: For companies with at least 20 full-time employees, the organization must allow discharged employees to retain their group health insurance for a specific amount of time. The state does not provide equal coverage for employees who work for companies with fewer than 20 full-time workers.

Consult an Employment Attorney

Employment law is varied and complex in each state. If you have questions about employment issues, consult a local employment attorney in Alaska.

Tagged as: Discrimination, Labor and Employment, Wrongful Termination