Be Child Care Aware: Know the Law! Fair Labor Standards For Preschools And Child Care Centers

Cheri M. Gioe, Merrill, Thomas A.  |  6/16/2006 2:00:22 AM

News You Can Use Distributed 06/16/06

Labor laws sometimes are confusing, and there’s no exception in the case of those for operating child-care centers, according to LSU AgCenter child-care associate Cheri Gioe.

"It seems that early care and education administrators often have questions regarding labor standards that apply to them," Gioe says. "The bottom line is that public, private, profit and nonprofit child-care centers and preschools providing care, education or developmental services to preschool age children are subject to the federal Fair Labor Standards Act – without regard to the annual dollar volume of the business they do.

"On the other hand, those considered as family day care home providers are not generally subject to those regulations unless they have employees who assist with the care of the children."

The Fair Labor Standards Act requires all employers to:

–Establish a work week for pay purposes.

–Maintain complete and accurate records of each employee’s daily and weekly hours worked.

–Pay at least the federal minimum wage, which currently is $5.15 per hour.

–Pay at least one and a half times each employee’s regular rate of pay as overtime.

–Comply with all child labor standards.

With regard to employee breaks, Gioe says the standard is that short breaks – 20 minutes or less in duration – authorized by employers must be counted in the hours an employee works.

"The good news, however, is that it’s thought that such short breaks a couple of times during the work day promote employee efficiency," she says.

Longer breaks or mealtimes that extend 30 minutes or longer need not be compensated as work time as long as the employee is completely relieved of his or her work duties.

In addition, Gioe says child-care center staff members must be compensated for the time that is required by the state for child-care center licensing.

"Staff attendance at lectures, meetings, training programs and similar activities must be counted as working time unless it meets some very specific criteria," she says. "You must count it as work time unless all of these are met – it occurs outside of the normal scheduled hours of work, it is completely voluntary, it is not job-related and no other work is performed during the period."

Gioe also points out that child-care programs are subject to the federal Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA.) FMLA requires that employers allow employees to take up to a total of 12 work weeks of unpaid leave during any 12-month period. Situations that are covered under the act are the birth and care of a newborn child; placement with the employee of a child for adoption or foster care; care for a child, spouse or parent with a serious health condition; or medical leave when the employee is unable to work due to a serious health condition.

For more information pertaining to Fair Labor Standards, visit the U.S. Department of Labor at www.dol.gov.

The LSU AgCenter’s "Be Child Care Aware!" educational program is designed to educate parents and child-care providers about quality child care. It is funded, in part, through a contract with the Louisiana Department of Social Services’ Office of Family Support.

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Contact: Cheri Gioe at (225) 578-6701 or cgioe@agcenter.lsu.edu
Editor: Tom Merrill at (225) 578-2263 or tmerrill@agcenter.lsu.edu

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