labor law guide
The Hawaii employment laws every business owner should know
Wages and breaks
Employers are allowed to credit $0.75 of the tips earned by a tipped employee towards the minimum wage obligation when the tipped employee earns at least $7.00 in tips.
This means the minimum wage for tipped employees comes out to be $9.35, but also that the tipped employee must earn at least $17.10 per hour when tips and wages are added together.
If an employee does not earn at least $16.25 when wages, tips and the tip credit are combined, the employer cannot take the tip credit.
Employees are allowed to participate in a tip pooling or sharing arrangement, but it is unclear whether or not an employee can require it.
Employers are required to pay non-exempt employees overtime at a rate of 1½ times their regular rate when they have more than 40 hours worked in a workweek.
The federal overtime rule laid out in the Fair Labor Standard Act stipulates that the minimum salary requirement for administrative, professional, and executive exemptions is $684 per week, or $35,568 per year. Workers making at least this salary level may be eligible for overtime based on their job duties.
Hawaii does not require employers to provide meal breaks, other than a 30-minute break to minors 14 and 15 years of age.
If an employer chooses to give a break according to federal law, breaks lasting 20 minutes or less must be paid.
Meal periods of 30 minutes or longer do not need to be paid as long as employees can do as they wish.
Final paychecks in Hawaii
Employees who are terminated or laid off must be paid final wages at the time of discharge, according to Hawaii wage and hour laws.
Employees who quit or separate from employment due to a labor dispute must be paid final wages no later than the next regularly scheduled payday.
Hawaii child labor laws
Hawaii laws stipulate that minors under the age of 18 may not work outside of the hours of 7 a.m. and 7 p.m., more than 6 consecutive days, more than 18 hours in a week, or more than 3 hours on a school day.
A 30-minute break must be given to minor employees 14 and 15 years of age who work 5 consecutive hours, according to the Hawaii Department of Labor.
Employers are not required to provide paid or unpaid sick leave but must comply with their own established policies in their employee handbook if they choose to implement one.
Employers are not required to provide bereavement leave.
Employees may be eligible for up to 4 weeks of unpaid family leave each calendar year for the birth or adoption of a child, or to care for a sick child or family member with a serious health condition.
Employers may also be required to provide employees unpaid leave in accordance with the federal Family and Medical Leave Act.
Employers are not required to provide paid or unpaid vacation leave but must comply with their own established policies if they choose to implement one.
Employers may establish a contract that denies employees payment for accrued vacation leave if they resign, if they are terminated, or if they fail to meet certain requirements.
Employers can cap the amount of vacation time that can be accrued.
Private employers are not required to provide paid or unpaid time off for holidays.
Employers are not required to pay an employee for time taken to respond to a jury summons, but they are not allowed to punish the employee in any way.
Hawaii laws require employers to pay for up to two hours of voting leave if the polls are not open for at least two consecutive hours before or after the employee’s shift.
Employers cannot reschedule the employee’s hours or deduct wages, unless the employer verifies that the employee did not vote during their voting leave.
Employers must provide leave to an employee who is the victim or whose minor child is the victim of domestic violence, stalking, or sexual assault. The employee may use the leave to seek medical attention, obtain counseling, or take legal action. Employers must keep the information regarding the employee’s leave confidential.
Employers that have 1–49 employees must provide up to five days of leave per calendar year. Employers that have 50 or more employees must provide up to 30 days of leave per calendar year.
As of January 1, 2021, employers may request to verify that an employee is a victim of domestic violence or sexual assault.
Employers in Hawaii that have at least 50 employees must provide their employees with leave to donate an organ, bone marrow, or stem cells. To be eligible for the leave, an employee must work for the employer for at least a year. The employer may require verification that the employee is serving as a donor and that there is a medical necessity for the leave.
An employee may take up to 30 days of leave to donate an organ. An employee may take up to seven days to donate bone marrow or stem cells. The leave can be intermittent, meaning that the employee does not need to take the leave in a single block.
An employee’s benefits continue during their leave, including seniority, vacation, salary adjustments, and health insurance.
The employer may require that the employee use up to two weeks of accrued sick leave, vacation, paid time off, or unpaid time off to donate an organ. The employer may require that the employee use up to three days of accrued sick leave, vacation, paid time off, or unpaid time off to donate bone marrow or stem cells. The employer may not run the leave concurrently with leave under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act.
After the leave, the employee is entitled to return to their position or a position with the same status, benefits, pay, and other terms and conditions of employment. An employer may not discharge or discriminate against an employee for requests or takes leave or opposes any unlawful practice regarding donation leave.
Employers must allow National Guard members to take leave when called to active duty. After their service, the employee is entitled to return to their job with the same seniority, status, and pay they would be entitled to if they had not taken the leave. For one year, the employer may not discharge the employee if the employee works their job and does not have a cause for termination.
If the employee sustains a disability because of their service and can no longer perform their job duties, the employer must offer them another position that they are qualified for upon request. The pay and benefits of the position offered must be similar to those of the employee’s previous position.
The Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA) is applicable to all employers in the United States. For information, visit the USERRA page here.
Hiring and firing
Federal law makes it illegal for an employer to discriminate on the basis of: Race, Color, Age, Sex, Sexual orientation, Gender, Gender identity, Religion, National origin, Pregnancy, Genetic information, including family medical history, individuals with disabilities, Child or spousal support withholding, Military or veteran status, Citizenship and/or immigration status.
Additionally, Hawaii prohibits discrimination based on marital status, arrest and court records, credit report or credit history, status as a victim of domestic or sexual violence, wage garnishment for consumer debt, National Guard absence, membership in a volunteer emergency responder organization, or breastfeeding or expressing milk at work.
Click here to read our blog on what acceptable and unacceptable questions to ask during an interview.
Hawaii is an employment-at-will state, which means that without a written employee contract, employees can be terminated for any reason at any time, provided that the reason is not discriminatory and that the employer is not retaliating against the employee for a rightful action.
Regarding employment and payroll data, under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and others, you must:
For at least 3 years: keep payroll records, certificates, agreements, notices, collective bargaining agreements, employment contracts, and sales and purchase records. Also keep completed copies of each employee’s I-9 for three years after they are hired. If the employee works longer than three years, hold on to the form for at least one year after the employee leaves.
For at least 2 years: Keep basic employment and earning records like timecards, wage-rate tables, shipping and billing records, and records of additions to or deductions from wages. Also keep the records that show why you may pay different wages to employees of different sexes, such as wage rates, job evaluations, seniority and merit systems, and collective bargaining agreements.
For at least 1 year: The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission says employers should keep all employment records for at least one year from the employee’s date of termination.
Other record-keeping laws that may apply to you:
Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act, you need to keep records of job-related injuries and illnesses for five years. But some records, like those covering toxic substance exposure, have to be kept for 30 years.
You must keep files of benefit plans and seniority and merit systems while they are in effect and for at least a year after they end. You must also retain summary descriptions and annual reports of benefits plans for six years.
If your company is covered by the Family and Medical Leave Act, you must also retain relevant records of leaves, notices, policies, and more for three years.
Additional laws that may apply to you.
Employers must follow specific requirements to test their applicants or employees for drugs. Employers can do breath tests for alcohol on applicants and employees.
To test for drugs, employers must use a licensed or certified laboratory, except for on-site screenings, and provide a written notice of the drugs tested for and a statement that over-the-counter medications or prescriptions may cause a positive test result.
COBRA is a federal law that allows many employees to continue their health insurance benefits after their employment ends. It applies to employers that have 20 or more employees. Hawaii does not have a mini-COBRA. However, if an employee cannot work because of hospitalization or sickness, their employer must allow them to continue their coverage for either three months or while the employer pays the employee’s wages, whichever is longer.
Employers may not discharge or discriminate against an employee because they reported (or are about to report) an alleged violation of a law, regulation, rule, ordinance, or contract or because a public body asks the employee to participate in an investigation or proceeding.
Hawaii requires that employers conduct background checks on private school teachers and other personnel who work near children, detective agency personnel, and security guard agency personnel.
Employers may obtain an applicant’s credit report only after they make a conditional job offer. Employers may not use an applicant’s or employee’s credit report to make employment decisions unless it directly relates to a bona fide qualification of the job.
Hawaii was the first state to “ban the box” in 1998. Employers in Hawaii may not make any inquiries into an applicant’s criminal history until they make a conditional offer of employment. The employer may withdraw the offer of employment only if the applicant’s conviction record has a rational relationship to the position and is less than 10 years old.
Employers may not use arrest or court records in their decision making. If an applicant’s arrest or conviction has been expunged, the applicant may respond to questions as if no record exists.
Hawaii employers must provide health care coverage for eligible employees to insure protection against the high cost of medical and hospital care for nonwork-related illness or injury.
Employers may obtain health coverage by purchasing an approved health care plan from a health care contractor or a Hawaii-licensed insurance carrier, adopting an approved self-insured health care plan, or negotiating a collective bargaining agreement.
Employees may form associations for the purpose of providing health care coverage as long as such health care protection is obtained from an authorized health care contractor.
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This summary is not qualified legal advice. Laws are always subject to change, and they can vary from municipality to municipality. It’s up to you to make sure you’re compliant with all laws and statutes in your area. If you need more compliance help, we recommend consulting with a qualified lawyer, checking with your local government agencies, or signing up for Homebase to get help from our certified HR Pros.