Employment law and status can be confusing, especially to newer workers. Depending on where you are, various regulations, rules, and internal policies can determine your employment status, which can affect your access to company benefits, government aid, and relevant wage law.
The terms ‘part-time’ and ‘full-time’ can be especially confusing. In the state of Florida, there is actually no legally mandated meaning of these terms. Employers are free to set their own internal policies. Laws that deal with part-time or full-time workers typically do so by specifying how many hours an employee must work to be covered by the corresponding legislation. The exact number of hours can change from law-to-law. For example, to be covered by the Affordable Care Act (ACA or ‘Obamacare’), an employee must work for 35 hours each week, but to be covered under relevant Florida health care statue, an employee only needs to work 20 hours a week.
As you can probably see by now, there’s no straightforwards definition of part-time or full-time, but there are some thresholds you may want to be aware of, which we’ll discuss below. But before we do that, we need to make sure you’re actually employed.
In the modern economy, many workers that you’d think are employees are actually classified as independent contractors. For example, ride-sharing drivers may seem like employees, but they’re actually classified as independent contractors. The difference is in the details. It may not seem to matter in your day-to-day, but independent contractors are typically not eligible for some employment protections, so before determining whether anything we mention below applies, be sure to verify your classification. If you get a W-2 at the end of year, you can be certain your company has you classified as an employee. On the other hand, if you receive form 1099, you are likely classified as a contractor.
You should also be aware that some companies abuse the independent contractor rules to avoid appropriate legislation and regulations. Contractors must be given more freedom to set their own hours, direct their own work, subcontract work out, and even to work for multiple clients at the same time. If your employer restricts any of these activities, then you may be classified as a statutory employee. Statutory employment is beyond the scope of this article and you should speak with a labor attorney if you think your employer has mis-classified you to avoid regulation.
With these caveats in mind, here are how some common Florida laws and programs define part-time versus full-time:
- For purposes of the Affordable Care Act (which determines access to healthcare benefits), an employee is considered eligible if they work more than 35 hours per week.
- To be eligible to receive Florida state unemployment benefits from the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity for a reduction in working hours, you need to otherwise work a set number of hours each week for a full year.
- For company health benefits under Florida law, an employee is covered if they work twenty or more hours a week.
- For purposes of overtime, a full working week is considered 40 hours. Hourly employees working more than this number of hours must be paid overtime wages, whether classified as part time or not.
Overtime Pay For Part Time Workers
Florida follows federal law when classifying full-time for the purposes of overtime pay. That is to say, an employee must be paid overtime wages (typically 150% of the base wage) for every hour worked over 40 hours in a single week.
Frequently Asked Questions:
Is 20 Hours Per Week Considered Part Time?
If you work 20 hours or less per week, then most laws will classify you as part time and your employer will not be legally required to provide benefits by either state or federal law. Working additional hours would make you eligible for healthcare insurance under Florida law.
Is 32 Hours Per Week Considered Part Time?
For purposes of Florida benefits law, 32 hours a week is considered full-time and would make you benefits-eligible. However, you would not be covered under the Affordable Care Act, which requires an employee to work 35 hours or more.
How Many Hours Can A Part Time Employee Work in Florida?
There is no limit for the total number of hours an employee can work in Florida. Employers paying their staff by the hour must follow relevant law. For example, by federal law, an employer offering short breaks (less than 30 minutes in length), must continue paying that employee. Longer breaks for meals (typically defined as 30 minutes or more) need not be paid. However, neither federal nor Florida law require employers to give breaks in the first place, but most employers do so out of custom.
If your employer is classifying you as part-time for purposes of avoiding providing benefits, then they must not require you to work more than 20 hours a week. Otherwise, you’d be covered under Florida health care statutes for medical insurance eligibility.
What do I do if my employer is refusing to provide benefits or overtime pay?
If you have reason to believe that the hours you work for your employer makes you eligible for benefits, you should first contact your HR department. Make sure to present them records of the hours you worked, and ask them if this makes you eligible for benefits. If their response is unsatisfactory, it’s time to speak with a labor attorney to determine if the law provides any relief.
For overtime pay, employers must respond to an employee claim of unpaid overtime within 15 days. If your employer denies your claim or doesn’t respond for fifteen days, employees have the right to file suit for up to two years of unpaid overtime (three years if there is evidence the withholding was intentional), plus liquidated damages equal to the total amount of overtime pay. This means employees that file a successful suit can receive twice their total pay in damages. In order to be successful, you’ll need to keep detailed records of hours worked, and hire an attorney to complete the process. If successful, you’ll get twice your pay, and your attorney and court expenses.
As we’ve seen, the seemingly simple matter of determining whether you’re part-time or full-time is not so simple! There’s no universal definition either in federal or Florida law. Instead, every piece of legislation specifies its own thresholds. Nevertheless, for the most common cases, working 20 hours a week starts making you eligible for benefits under Florida state law, and working 35 hours or more a week make you eligible for the ACA. Working over 40 hours makes you eligible for overtime pay. Before attempting to assert eligibility for any of these programs, make sure that you’re classified as an employee. If you believe you should be treated like an employee but your employer is treating you like a contractor, seek out the advice of a trusted attorney. With these provisions in mind, you should be much more able to navigate the web of Florida labor law.