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Employment figures in Arkansas increased by over 44,000 between 2021 and 2022, thanks to six Fortune 500 companies, like Walmart and Hunt Transport Services, based in the state. Arkansas is also expected to provide work opportunities for individuals who only have a high school diploma with in-demand occupations, like material movers, customer service representatives, janitors and cleaners, and groundskeeping workers. This development further makes it important to be aware of the state’s employment and labor laws.

In Arkansas, employment law covers the rights and responsibilities of the parties in an employee-employer relationship. These include the policies of standard employee regulations and the at-will employment doctrine. Labor law, on the other hand, focuses on addressing legal issues involving employees represented by civil unions. These include negotiating collective bargaining agreements and handling strikes and boycotts. 

Arkansas employment and labor laws are complex, with provisions, exemptions, and so many policies to know, understand, and consider. The large amount of information can make employees feel overwhelmed. This article aims to provide an understanding of different legal topics. These topics include minimum wage, child labor laws, wrongful termination, and entitled benefits. 

Arkansas Wage Laws

According to the Arkansas Minimum Wage Act, employers with four or more employees are required to provide the minimum wage rate of $11.00 per hour. At the same time, those with fewer than four workers must follow the federal minimum wage rate of $7.25 per hour. However, the following individuals are exempt from the minimum wage requirements:

  • Those employed in a bona fide or professional capacity, including individuals who serve at a policymaking level and have less than $500,000 gross annual sales.

  • Agricultural workers with employers that do not use over 500 man-days.

  • Individuals involved in livestock production.

  • Government employees.

  • Independent contractors.

  • Employees hired by educational camps or non-profit recreational institutions.

  • Babysitters and individuals who provide companionship services.

  • Workers in nonprofit children's welfare agencies.

Arkansas law requires that tipped employees be paid no less than $2.63 per hour. The total tips earned by the employee must reach the mandatory hourly minimum wage; otherwise, if the total is short of the minimum, the employer must pay the balance. Keeping an accurate account of tips received by employees is an employer’s obligation in Arkansas. 

On the other hand, employers do not have the right to reduce the minimum wage unless permitted or required by law and authorized in writing by the worker. Non-standard deductions, like penalties for tardiness, breakage, and inventory shortages, are also prohibited.  

Arkansas Subminimum Wage Laws

The following workers earn subminimum or less than the minimum wage rate in Arkansas:

  • People with disabilities: Handicapped individuals have the right to work and earn less than the minimum wage rate, but they are required to acquire authorization or certification from the Arkansas Department of Labor and Licensing. Also, they have the right to request therapeutic activity centers in their workplace.

  • Learners and Apprentices: Employers with valid certification to employ these individuals are required to provide a subminimum of no less than 85% of the minimum wage rate.

  • Student learners: An employed and full-time student with duties not exceeding 20 hours a week when school is in session or 40 hours weekly when school is not in session must earn at least 85% of the minimum wage rate. However, they must have a student certificate of eligibility from the ADLL.  

Arkansas Hours Worked Laws

In Arkansas, employers are mandated to employ individuals for no more than 40 hours a week. The following activities within the employment scope are rendered, compensated, and part of a 40-hour work week.




Duties that are not requested but permitted

Employees may voluntarily continue to work, including preparing reports and addressing errors, at the end of their shift. 

Also applicable to those working at home or outside the job premises or sites.


Employees are considered to be working even if some time is spent sleeping. 

The interrupted sleep of someone with over 24-hour duty is paid, and if they cannot get at least five hours of sleep, the entire time is compensated.

Employees with a duty period of over 24 hours can have an agreement with their employers to exclude an 8-hour sleeping period, provided they have sleeping facilities and uninterrupted sleep.

Employees who work within their employer’s premises or from their home are not paid for all the time they spend in the area, except when they are performing their duties. Examples of such workers are strippers who reside in their employer’s house or a telephone operator who has the switchboard in their home.   

Rest and meal periods

A bona fide meal period, excluding snack and coffee breaks, is not work time. 

5 to 20 minutes of rest periods are counted as hours worked. 

Employees who perform their jobs, active or inactive, while eating are not part of the rest and meal periods.

Waiting time

Employees who do other activities while waiting for something related to their duties are still part of the 40-hour workweek. For instance, a factory worker is chatting with a co-worker while waiting for the machine. 

Employees who are outside their employer’s premises but are required to have open communication throughout the day are still considered to be working. 

Employees who are off-duty or are completely relieved from duties are not part of the waiting time and, thus, are not compensated. 

Lectures, meetings, and training programs

Attending meetings, training, and lectures is not part of the 40-hour work week if:

1. Attendance is voluntary.
2. The activities are beyond regular working hours.
3. Programs are not related to the employee’s job.
4. The employee did not perform their duty during their absence. 

Travel time

Traveling while performing tasks, like picking up orders and reporting to a meeting place, is considered work hours. 

Employees who are provided with public transportation while on duty are compensated for the hours they spend driving a private vehicle if they deny the offer.

Hours spent traveling away from home outside the regular schedule as a passenger on a bus, train, or airplane are not part of a work week. 

Arkansas Overtime Laws

Arkansas employers are legally required to provide compensation for any work duties performed beyond 40 hours. The compensation rate is 1.5 times the minimum wage rate. However, employees like those harvesting and making products out of evergreen products or a family member working in their family-run business are exempted from the legislation. 

Workers who are protected under the Fair Labor Standards Act, including software engineers, those in the advanced field of science, amusement park staff, police officers and firefighters, and municipal officials, are exempted and covered by special provisions on overtime laws. 

Arkansas Leave Laws

Employers in Arkansas are not legally required to provide paid or unpaid leaves, including those for vacation, sickness, holidays, and bereavement. However, if they decide to do so, they must comply with the employment contract or the state’s policy. 

Employees are allowed to take medical leave through FMLA or private employment policies, provided they have a 12-month employment history, have accomplished duty of 1,250 hours the previous year, and work in the company within a 75-minute radius and with over 50 employees. Additionally, employers are mandated to grant a leave of absence for those running for a position in a public office or board of commission.

Child Labor Laws

Under Arkansas Act 195 of 2023, child labor permits are no longer required except for those aged 16 or under working in the entertainment industry. They must submit an entertainment application for employment of a minor permit issued by the director, with proof of age, workers’ compensation, and a school statement attached to it. It is legal to employ minors, but employers are required to comply with the following provisions and policies:

  • Children 14 and 15 years old are not allowed to work more than eight hours a day, 48 hours a week, or six days a week. They are also prohibited from working before 6 a.m. and after 7 p.m. on nights preceding school days.

  • Children under 14 years old can work in the entertainment industry, hand-harvest short-season crops, work as newspaper delivery men, and serve as sports referees.   

  • Children aged 16 are not allowed to perform duties over 10 consecutive hours a day, 54 hours a week, or six days a week. In addition, they are not allowed to work before 6 a.m. and after 11 p.m., unless they are married, parents, or graduates of high school, vocational institution, or technical school.   

Arkansas Act 687 of 2023 hands down civil penalties for child labor law violations. Violators can pay a fine of no less than $100 and not exceeding $5,000. They may also face class A, B, and C misdemeanor charges.  

Arkansas Workers’ Compensation Laws

The Arkansas Workers’ Compensation Law covers employers with three or more employees. On the other hand, companies with one or two employees, agricultural farm laborers, and those employed by non-profit organizations and charitable institutions may not be protected. Also, employees under federal law, like maritime and railroad workers, are exempted from workers’ comp.  

Workers’ compensation provides benefits for individuals who suffer life-altering injuries resulting from workplace-related accidents. These benefits include medical care, wage payments, and compensation for disability and wrongful death. There are exemptions and provisions that both employees and employers need to follow for a smooth process without involving legal action. 

Employers are also required to post workers’ compensation information, including the current insurance coverage, in a visible area of the workplace.          

Is Arkansas an At-Will Employment State?

Arkansas is an at-will employment state, allowing both employees and employers to terminate their relationship at any time for no reason or with a reason that does not violate state or federal law. 

Firing an individual based on retaliation and discrimination is outside the scope of an at-will doctrine. The at-will employment clause does not apply to those protected under the Arkansas Civil Rights Act of 1993, the Family and Medical Leave Act, or the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. These include firing someone solely based on being pregnant or having had an abortion, having disabilities, or being a member of the LGBTQIA+ community.  

Terminating at-will employees protected by employee contracts, collective bargaining agreements, and implied contracts — which is the presumed intention of both employees and employers to agree either through oral assurances or expectations from policies or handbooks — is not allowed. 

Additionally, an at-will employment clause exempts those who were terminated for reasons that violate public policy, including exercising statutory rights, violating general public policy, and exposing the illegal schemes of employers.   

What Qualifies as Wrongful Termination in Arkansas?

In Arkansas, employees who were fired solely based on national origin, religion, age, gender, or color have the right to file a wrongful termination claim. Employers are prohibited from discharging someone for participating in protected activities, including testifying in hearings, engaging in civil unions or affiliations, and opposing discriminatory practices. 

Workers also have a basis for a wrongful termination claim if they experience a hostile workplace environment, such as harassment, reduced earnings, denied promotions, and other behaviors that directly affect the employee’s work performance, compensation, and condition. 

Employees who are protected under FMLA and were fired because of childbirth, pregnancy, mental and physical disabilities, or family emergencies can sue their employer and receive compensation for lost benefits and front and back pay.  

To be eligible for FMLA benefits, an employee must have worked an average of 1,250 hours for at least 12 months within the last seven years.  

Additionally, employees can file a wrongful termination case against their employers if they were fired for taking jury duty, voting, or recovering from on-the-job injuries. 

How Do You Report an Employer in Arkansas for Wrongful Termination?

Employees who were wrongfully discharged in Arkansas due to racial and age discrimination can file their claim to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission through their website or by contacting them at 501-324-5060. Complainants can also schedule an in-person appointment at EEOC office, located at 820 Louisiana Street, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201. 

Individuals protected under the FMLA who are victims of wrongful termination can submit their allegation report to the Arkansas Department of Labor and Licensing, located at 10810 Executive Center Drive, Suite 220, Little Rock, AR 72211. 

A wrongful termination case can be overwhelming, and although it is not legally required, obtaining legal counsel from employment lawyers can be a great help. These professionals understand the legal system, can craft strategies against at-fault parties, and help victims gather evidence, like performance reviews, invoices, and copies of employment contracts, to support the claim.  

What is the Statute of Limitations for Wrongful Termination Cases in Arkansas?

In Arkansas, employees wrongfully discharged in violation of state laws are given 180 days, starting from the termination date, to file a claim with the Arkansas Department of Labor. Meanwhile, employees whose termination breached federal laws, including provisions against discrimination and retaliation, have 300 days to submit a report to the EEOC. 

Job seekers and employees who are victims of discriminatory practices from federal agencies have 45 days, beginning from when the incident occurred, to contact the EEO counselor. Complainants can choose to participate in a counseling session or an alternative dispute resolution program to address the claim. However, if they want to file a formal complaint, they have 15 days after they receive the counselor’s decision to submit a report.    

Employees with minimum wage and overtime pay issues have two years to lodge their complaints against their employers and must submit the wage complaint form to the Arkansas Department of Labor and Licensing. Meanwhile, those with child labor questions and complaints can contact the Labor Standards Division at 501-682-4599.     

Employees with breach of contract allegations have a statute of limitation of three years for oral contracts and five years for written contracts, while those with tort cases, like discharge in violation of public policy and willful conduct to inflict emotional anguish, have three years to submit a claim.  

How Much Can Someone Sue an Employer in Arkansas for Wrongful Termination?

In Arkansas, a wrongful termination claim can be settled for between $5,000 and $100,000. However, the stated amount can change as wrongful termination cases vary depending on the situation and factors surrounding it, including the plaintiff’s annual salary, bonuses and commissions, insurance, and pension. 

In addition to financial compensation, victims are entitled to recover the following damages:

  • Lost wages, including the difference in earnings between the old and new company, if the employee found a new job that pays less.

  • Payment for medical bills.

  • Emotional and mental suffering.

  • Expenses associated with job hunting.

  • Lost benefits, like increase in health insurance premiums.

  • Attorney’s fees.

  • Disability, excluding compulsive gambling and alcoholism.

  • Punitive damages.

Also, victims of wrongful termination can request a policy change in their workplace to ensure that the incident will never happen again.

Resources for Employees in Arkansas

Navigating the Arkansas employment laws can be daunting. On top of seeking new employment opportunities and shelling out a large amount of money in the process, it is definitely a challenge to recover from this situation. In light of this, the following organizations can help low-income individuals and members of minority groups have an easier and less overwhelming experience.  

Legal Aid of Arkansas

Legal Aid of Arkansas is a not-for-profit organization that helps financially challenged individuals and families. It offers legal counsel on various employment law disputes, including disability discrimination and denials of unemployment insurance. Individuals can reach the office by calling 1-870-338-9834 or applying through the online intake system

Center for Arkansas Legal Services

The Center for Arkansas Legal Services gives low-income individuals with criminal histories a fresh start through the Clean Slate Re-entry Program. It expunges and seals their criminal record, allowing them to have more employment opportunities. It also holds multi-agency events for employers with job openings and professional resume writers. For questions and concerns, contact them at +15013763423. 

Civil Litigation and Advocacy Clinic

The University of Arkansas offers the Civil Litigation and Advocacy Clinic, which assists low-income individuals facing employment law issues like denial of unemployment benefits and unpaid wages. The office allows law students to represent clients in a real-life setting under close faculty supervision. Contact them at 479-575-3056 or visit them in person at 1 University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, AR 72701.

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