As an employee in Alaska, you are protected by federal and state laws throughout the employment process, from hiring through discharge. You have a legal right to work free from harassment and discrimination, to earn at least the minimum wage (and overtime, if you are eligible), and to take job-protected leave for certain reasons. Below, we explain some of your workplace rights in Alaska.
Discrimination and Harassment Laws in Alaska
Under federal law, employers may not make employment decisions based on race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy), national origin, age (if the employee is at least 40 years old), disability, or genetic information. Employers with at least 15 employees are subject to these laws (for age discrimination, employers with at least 20 employees must comply with the law).
These laws prohibit discrimination in every aspect of employment, from job postings, interviews, and hiring decisions to promotions, benefits, pay, discipline, performance reviews, layoffs, and firing. For detailed information on the federal laws that prohibit employment discrimination, see the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s Laws Enforced by the EEOC.
Alaska law also protects employees from discrimination based on these traits. In addition, employees in Alaska are protected from discrimination based on marital status. In Alaska, all employers are subject to state laws prohibiting discrimination, even those with only one employee. To file a complaint or learn more about Alaska’s laws prohibiting discrimination, go to the website of the Alaska State Commission for Human Rights.
Workplace harassment based on any of these traits is also illegal. From a legal perspective, harassment is unwelcome workplace conduct or comments, based on the target’s protected characteristic, that creates a hostile work environment or that the target must endure as a condition of employment. Sexual harassment is the most familiar type of harassment, but harassment might also be based on age, national origin, and other protected traits.
Your employer may not retaliate against you for complaining of discrimination or harassment. Your employer may not discipline, fire, or take other negative action against you because you complain within the company, to a government agency (like the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission or the Alaska State Commission for Human Rights), or in a lawsuit.
Alaska Minimum Wage and Overtime Laws
The federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and Alaska law set the wage and hour standards employers must follow, including the minimum wage, overtime, and other wage protections. Employers must pay the highest minimum wage applicable to employees, whether set by federal, state, or local law. Alaska requires employers to pay a minimum wage of $9.75 an hour, which is higher than the federal standard of $7.25. Therefore, Alaska employers must pay the state minimum wage.
Under the FLSA and Alaska law, employers must pay employees time and a half if they work more than 40 hours in a week. Alaska also has a daily overtime standard, which requires employers to pay overtime to eligible employees who work more than eight hours in a day, whether or not they also exceed 40 hours in a week. Not all employees are entitled to earn overtime, however. If you fall within an exception to the overtime laws (for example, because you are a salaried manager as defined by the law), you are an exempt employee, which means you are not eligible for overtime.
Learn more about Alaska wage and overtime rules at the website of the Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development. You can find out more about the FLSA from the Wage and Hour Division of the federal Department of Labor.
Alaska Workplace Safety Laws
In every state, including Alaska, the federal Occupational Safety and Health Act requires employers to provide a safe workplace, free of known hazards. Employers must provide safe, healthy working conditions as well as the safety equipment and training required for their industry.
Employees have the right to request an Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) inspection if they believe their employer has committed safety violations. It is illegal for employers to retaliate against employees who complain of unsafe or hazardous working conditions.
If you suffer an on-the-job injury, you will likely be eligible for workers’ compensation. Most Alaska employers are required to carry workers’ compensation insurance. Workers’ comp provides you with a percentage of your usual earnings, pays for necessary medical treatment, and provides vocational rehabilitation and other benefits.
Your Right to Time Off Work in Alaska
Many employers voluntarily offer their employees paid leave, such as vacation time, sick days, holidays, or paid time off (PTO) benefits. Although a handful of states require employers to give employees paid sick days, neither Alaska nor federal law requires employers to offer paid leave.
However, employers may be required to offer unpaid leave for reasons such as:
- Military leave. The federal Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA) and Alaska military leave law both require employers to allow employees to take leave from work for federal or state military service or duty. Employees must be reinstated after their leave, and may not be discriminated against based on their service.
- Family and medical leave. The federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) requires employers with at least 50 employees to give eligible employees up to 12 weeks of unpaid time off per year for illness and caregiving. Employees may take up to 26 weeks off to care for a family member who suffers a serious injury while on active military duty. While you are on FMLA leave, your employer must continue your group health benefits. You have the right to be reinstated when your leave is through.
- Voting. Alaska employees are entitled to time off work, with pay, to vote. Employers need not provide time off if employees have at least two consecutive hours off work while the polls are open.
- Jury duty. Alaska employers must also allow employees to take time off work for jury service, and may not threaten employees who are called for jury duty.
Job Termination in Alaska
Alaska employees generally work at will. This means they can be fired at any time, for any reason that is not illegal. However, even at-will employees may not be fired for reasons that are discriminatory or retaliatory. You may not be fired, for example, for complaining about illegal discrimination or filing a wage claim for unpaid overtime.
If you are laid off or otherwise lose your job through no fault of your own (for example, you are not fired for serious misconduct and you don’t quit voluntarily), you may qualify for unemployment benefits in Alaska. Once you start receiving benefits, you will have to search for work to continue receiving them. If you are eligible, you will receive a percentage of your previous earnings for 26 weeks while you are looking for a new job. To learn more (or file a claim online), visit the Alaska Unemployment Insurance Program website.
Under a federal law called the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA), you may have the right to continue your health insurance coverage after your employment ends. However, you will have to pay the full premium (including whatever portion your employer used to pay), plus up to 2% of that amount for administrative costs. You can continue these benefits for 18 to 36 months, depending on your situation.
Talk to a Lawyer
If you have questions about your workplace rights, you should speak to an experienced Alaska employment lawyer.