American workers are protected by state and federal law from before they're hired until after they leave a job. Below is an overview of employment law issues in Arkansas.
Laws against discrimination come into play as soon as a position is posted. Companies can't limit the job to male applications or people who aren't married. Employers can't ask during interviews if an applicant has children and, unless age is a legal factor such as with bartenders, they can't ask about that, either.
Arkansas's minimum wage is $6.25 an hour for workers at companies with more than four employees. Companies that do more than $500,000 of business a year must pay the federal minimum wage of $7.25. The minimum is $2.63 for workers who receive tips, though employers must make up the difference if workers bring in less than the minimum wage after tips. Non-salaried workers are eligible for time and a half pay for hours worked beyond 40 each week. Note: these statistics are as of January 2013.
Safe at Work
Federal law requires companies to keep workers safe and job sites free from known hazards. That means companies have to provide proper protective gear in dangerous situations, make sure workers are adequately trained and keep buildings safe. Employers can't fire or demote workers who report problems.
All Arkansas companies with three or more employees are required to carry workers' compensation coverage that pays workers while they recover from on-the-job injuries and helps them get better so they can go back to work. How much workers are paid depends on how much they were earning when they were hurt, and how long workers are paid depends on the seriousness of the injury.
Employers don't have to let workers take vacation or have holidays off, though many offer it as a benefit. Federal law requires companies with 50 or more employees to offer unpaid leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act, but beyond that sick leave is not required. Arkansans are not eligible for paid time off for jury duty, but they can't be demoted or fired for serving, either.
Harassment is unwelcome conduct based on color, national origin, religion, age, gender, race or disability, and it's illegal under federal law. A worker can take legal action if the harassment is offensive enough that a reasonable person would object or if they have to put up with the harassment in order to keep the job.
Arkansas is an "at will" state — if there's no contract, the worker can quit for any reason or the employer can let the worker go for any reason as long as it's not discriminatory. The state does sometimes treat a policy manual as an employment contract and force companies to abide by its terms. Employees who are fired must receive their final checks within seven days.
Benefits After You Leave
Unless a worker quits or is fired for misconduct, he will be able to draw unemployment pay. The amount of depends how much the worker was paid and how much she worked over the previous four quarters. People who worked at companies with more than 20 employees can continue health insurance, though they'll have to pay for the full premium.
Contact an Arkansas Employment Lawyer
Employment law is a complicated, and this article is intended only as an overview. For specific problems, consult a local employment law lawyer for advice.