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Wage & Hour - Common Questions

1.  What is the current minimum wage?

$7.25 per hour.

2.  I'm a tipped employee. Can my employer pay me less than minimum wage?

If you make $30 per month or more in tips, the employer may pay as little as $4.35 per hour.  If in any work week the wage the employer pays you and the tips you receive do not average at least $7.25 per hour, the employer is required to pay the difference.

3.  Can an employer pay less than minimum wage for the first 90 days of a new hire’s employment?

Yes.  An Iowa employer is allowed to pay an “initial employment wage” of $6.35 per hour for the first 90 days. Iowa’s “initial employment wage” is not the same thing as the federal “training wage” that allows certain employees to be paid less than minimum wage.  Information about the federal “training wage” can be obtained by contacting the U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour office at 515-284-4625.

4.  If I pay an Iowa employee the “initial employment wage” for 90 calendar days, the employee quits and I rehire this employee later, can I use the “initial employment wage” again?

No. Iowa’s “initial employment wage” may only be paid for a total of 90 calendar days of employment with the same employer.

5.  Who must comply with the Iowa Minimum Wage Law?

Generally employers that gross at least $300,000 in sales or business per year must comply with the Iowa Minimum Wage Law.  Some employers may be required by law to comply regardless of sales or business volume.  These would include public agencies and construction entities.  For-profit and not for profit hospitals, institutions caring for the sick, aged or mentally ill, schools for persons mentally or physically disabled or for gifted children, preschools, and elementary or secondary schools would also be required to comply.

6.  What kind of breaks are required under Iowa law?

Iowa has no laws mandating meal breaks for adults.  An employer does not have to pay you for a break during which you are completely relieved of your job duties.  Your employer can require you to stay on the business premises during your break.  Only the following breaks are required:

  •       Minors younger than 16 must be given a 30-minute break if they are employed five hours or more in a day.
  •       All employees must be allowed toilet breaks when needed.
  •       A union contract may require breaks and those requirements are enforced by the union.
  •       Certain other limited categories of workers, such as airline pilots, may be entitled to mandatory breaks under applicable regulations. Check with the appropriate regulatory agency.

7.  What is the maximum number of hours per day my employer can make me work?

For most employees there is no limit on the number of hours unless there is an employment agreement or contract that says otherwise.  Many employers give rest and meal breaks due to health and safety concerns.  There are limits on the number of hours children under age 16 can work, and some contracts for employment contain limits.

8.  Are Iowa employers required to pay employees for sick time, vacation or holidays?

Employers must follow their own policies, practices or contracts regarding benefits. In  the absence of such an agreement, these benefits are not required.

9.  Are Iowa employers required to give employees pay raises?

Not unless there is an employment contract specifying a raise.

10.  Can an employer change my hours, job description, and/or work location without notice?

For most employees-yes.  If you are an at will employee, an employer may change your work schedule, place of work, or job description without advance notice.

11.  Can my employer fire me without a reason?

For most employees-yes.  Usually either an employer or employee may terminate the employment relationship at any time, for any reason, or for no reason at all.  You may have grounds for legal action if the employer fires you:

  • Based on sex, race, color, national origin, religion, age, pregnancy or physical or mental disability.  Contact the Iowa Civil Rights Commission.
  • For certain “whistleblower” actions such as filing OSHA complaints.
  • Contrary to an applicable employment contract.
  • For attempting to comply with applicable government regulations, such as health codes in restaurants.

12.  Is my employer required to give me notice when he fires me? Do I have to give notice when I quit?

Generally notice is not required by either party. However, notice of quitting may affect fringe benefits like vacation and sick leave.

13.  When is my employer required to pay me after I've quit or been fired?

If you leave employment for any reason, you are to be paid on the next regularly scheduled payday.

14.  Am I entitled to my unused vacation when I am fired or if I quit?

Only if the employer has a contract, policy or procedure to pay vacation to departing employees.

15.  What can be deducted from my wages?

Items on the following list can be deducted from wages.

  • Taxes
  • Garnishments
  • Deductions for any lawful purpose accruing to the benefit of the employee if the employee has given written authorization for the deduction (for example, insurance, 401K, pensions, bonds and savings programs).

Items on the following list cannot be deducted:

  • Cash shortages in common money till.
  • Losses due to breakage, damage, acceptance of bad checks, and default of customer credit except in certain limited cases.
  • Lost or stolen property unless certain conditions are met.
  • Personal protective equipment in most cases.

For exceptions see Iowa Code Chapter 91A.5.   

16.  Can my employer require me to have direct deposit of my wages?

 Your employer may require direct deposit of your wages if:

  • You were hired after July 1, 2005.
  • The costs of opening and keeping the account do not drop your pay below minimum wage.
  • There is no charge to your account for the direct deposit.
  • You are not covered by a union contract that prohibits mandatory direct deposits.

17.  Is payment of wages by debit card allowed in Iowa?

Yes, if the following conditions are met:

  • The employee agrees in writing to accept wages through a debit card.
  • The funds are available to the employee on or before each pay day.
  • The employee is allowed access to all wages due without a fee or charge.  The number of free transactions required per pay period will vary depending on the amount of pay owed and the card’s transaction limit.  For example, if the card’s transaction limit is greater than the amount of pay owed, only one free transaction per pay period is required; if the card’s transaction limit is one-half of the wages owed, two free transactions per pay period are required.

18.  Does my employer have to give me a pay stub?

 Yes.  Every regular payday an employer shall provide to the employee a statement showing:

  • The hours the employee worked.
  • The wages earned by the employee.
  • The deductions made from that paycheck.

The statement shall be provided using one of the following methods:

  • Sending the statement to an employee by mail.
  • Providing the statement to an employee by secure electronic transmission or other secure electronic means, provided the employee is able to receive under these methods. Otherwise the employer must use another approved method.
  • Providing the statement to an employee at the normal place of employment during normal working hours.
  • Providing each employee access to view and print a statement of their earnings electronically and providing free and unrestricted access to a printer to print the statement.         

An employer is not required to provide information on hours worked for an employee who is exempt from overtime under Federal Law, as long as the employer does not actually pay overtime, a bonus or other payment based on hours worked.  If the hours worked affect the pay for such employees, the employer shall provide a statement showing the hours worked or payments made, as applicable.

19.  Must an employer include year-to-date information on a paystub?

No. Only current information is required.

20.  Are penalties possible for employers that violate Iowa’s Wage Law?

An employer may be assessed penalties for violations of Iowa wage law.

21.  What if my checks “bounce” because my employer did not pay me on time?

An employer may be held liable for the cost of bounced checks caused by the employer’s failure to pay.      

22.  May an employer mail a paycheck to an employee without written consent from the employee?

No.  An employer must obtain an employee’s written consent before a paycheck is sent via the mail.  Pay stubs may be mailed without written consent.

23.  If paychecks are normally distributed in person, and an employee is absent from work on the regularly scheduled payday, can an employer mail the paycheck to the absent employee?

The employer must have written authorization from the employee to mail the paycheck.

24.  What should a written authorization for payment by mail include?

The following is offered only as a suggestion. Employers should consult with their own employment experts.

I, _________________, voluntarily authorize [insert employer name] to forward my paycheck by mail.

            Name ________________________________

            Address ________________________________________

            City _______________________________ State _________ Zip ________

            X_________________________________ Date ______________

25.  Who is entitled to overtime and when?

If your claim is for failure to pay overtime contact the U.S. Department of Labor at 515-284-4625. 

26.  My employer has not paid me the wages I believe I am owed. What can I do?

If you believe you are owed wages not exceeding $6,500.00, you can file a wage claim with the Iowa Division of Labor.  Print a Wage Claim in English or Spanish or request a form be mailed to you by calling 515-725-5619.  You also have the right to pursue your claim on your own behalf in court.  If your claim has to do with federal minimum wage or overtime you may contact the U.S. Department of Labor, Wage & Hour Division at 515-284-4625.

27.  Can an employer require employees to purchase uniforms?

The employer may require employees to buy uniforms.  Deducting the purchase price of uniforms from an employee’s paycheck is not allowed if the uniform identifies the business through a logo or company colors.  Payroll deduction may be allowed if the uniform is generic clothing such as a white blouse or black pants.

28.  Do I get paid for being “on-call?”

On call time does not generally have to be compensated.  However, if the conditions of being on call make it very difficult to do anything personal then compensation may be due. Any time actually performing work while on call must be compensation.

29.  Do I have to pay an employee while they are on jury duty?

No.  Iowa wage law and Federal law do not require that an employer pay hourly, non-exempt employees for jury service; however, a salaried, exempt employee’s wages may not be reduced as a result of absence related to jury service.  Many employers do elect to pay an employee’s wage while they are on jury duty, and ask that the employee sign over to the employer any payments the employee gets from the court for performing jury service, which is permissible under state or federal law.

Under Iowa law, if an employer has a policy or past practice of paying employees while they are on jury duty, the employer must consistently and uniformly follow its policy or past practice.  An employer is not compelled to continue paying if it communicates clearly and consistently that it has changed its policy or practice.

30.  Do I have to give an employee time off to vote?

View the Iowa law on this question.

31.  What is the youngest age to begin employment in Iowa?

Generally, age 14; however, children may work in the street trades (like newspaper delivery and candy sales) at age 10 and in migratory labor at age 12.  A judge can order the Labor Commissioner to issue a work permit to a person under the age of 14. Find out more information by visiting the child labor page.

32.  Can my employer make me attend a meeting, lecture, or training without paying me?

A meeting or training directly related to a particular business must be paid.  Training that results in a portable certificate or license does not have to be compensated if it is outside of regular working hours and attendance is voluntary. 

33.  Who can help me with questions regarding my employer-sponsored pension plan?

Most pension plans are regulated by the Employee Benefits Security Administration of the U.S. Department of Labor.  To contact this office, call 866-444-3272. 

34.  Can my employer force me to take a drug test?

Information on Iowa’s drug testing law can be obtained here:

Governor’s Office on Drug Control at 515-725-0300.