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Hawaii employment and labor laws have been implemented to improve workplace conditions for the state's approximately 676,000 civilian workers. According to the Hawaii Department of Business, Economic Development, and Tourism, the state's main industries in terms of employment are accommodation and food services, healthcare, retail trade, and public administration. However, employment discrimination remains an issue, with 637 cases filed in fiscal year 2022 alone. Reasons included religion, retaliation, age, and gender. 

Hawaii is one of the smallest U.S. states, yet faces ongoing challenges enforcing employment laws, even with measures aimed at improving conditions. Knowing your employee rights is crucial to protect yourself from workplace issues. 

This article will examine the various employment laws that govern the employer-employee relationship in the state. These include wages, discrimination, wrongful termination, and safety. It will also discuss state labor laws, which tackle matters involving labor unions. 

Wage Laws in Hawaii

Minimum Wage

According to Hawaii labor and employment laws, employers are required to pay their employees the minimum wage. Unlike the federal rate of $7.25 per hour, the current state minimum wage is $12 per hour. The wage rate will increase to:

  • $14 per hour starting January 1, 2024;

  • $16 per hour starting January 1, 2026;

  • $18 per hour starting January 1, 2028

Meanwhile, businesses with annual revenues of more than $500,000 are subject to the Fair Labor Standards Act, which is the federal equivalent of state wage legislation. Companies that conduct or produce goods for interstate commerce are also subject to federal wage standards. In this case, workers will be paid based on the federal minimum wage.  

Minimum Wage for Tipped Employees

If you earn more than $20 in tips per month and your total earnings and tips are at least $7.00 more than the applicable hourly rate, you may be paid less than the minimum wage. In this instance, your employer may claim tip credit, which allows them to count tips when calculating the minimum wage. 

Assume you worked 30 hours per week and earned $300 in tips or $10 per hour. When the hourly rate of $12 is added, the total sum of wages and tips is $22, which is greater than the $19 threshold. This means that your employer can use tip credit to pay you less than the minimum wage. They can deduct the maximum tip credit of $1 from the hourly rate. Your hourly wage is then reduced to $11. 

Overtime Pay

To be eligible for overtime pay, you must have worked more than 40 hours in a workweek. The extra hours performed are compensated at 1.5 times the standard hourly rate. 

However, certain employers are exempted from paying their employees overtime pay during any of 20 different workweeks in one year. They are the following:

  • Employers in the agricultural sector whose work involves the first processing of milk, buttermilk, whey, skim milk, or cream into dairy products;

  • Employers in the agricultural sector whose processes mainly revolve around processing sugar cane into sugar or syrup;

  • Employers in the agricultural sector who mainly handle livestock and poultry;

  • Employers whose primary focus is the canning or packing of seasonal fresh fruits.

Record Keeping

Employers are required to keep wage records for at least six years. Required information to be recorded includes:

  • The name, address, and job of each employee;

  • The hours worked each day and each workweek by each employee;

  • The amount paid each pay period for each employee;

  • The rate or rates of pay of each employee (e.g., paid by the hour, shift, commission, piece, or other criteria).

Wage Payment

Employees must be paid at least twice a month on established regular paydays. It must be paid within seven days after the end of each pay period, either in cash, check, direct deposit, or pay card. 

If your employer decides to end your employment, you must be paid in full by the time you are discharged. If you resign, you must receive your salary in full by the following regular payday.

Wage Deduction

Employers are only permitted to deduct pay if state or federal laws mandate it. Furthermore, even with written authorization, they are not permitted to take away the following items from their employees' paychecks:

  • Fines;

  • Costs for breakage;

  • Cash shortage in cash boxes or registers used by two or more people;

  • Medical examination or medical report costs of an employee required by the employer or by law;

  • Losses due to non-payment of goods or services by customers, default of customer credit, loss or damaged property, and faulty workmanship.


The Hawaii Family Leave Law provides employees up to four weeks of family leave each calendar year. It may be either paid, unpaid, or a combination of both. To be eligible, you must have worked for at least six consecutive months in the state. 

The Federal Family and Medical Leave Act gives up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave per year. It also offers up to 26 weeks of unpaid leave for an employee who needs to care for a military relative. 

Occupational Health and Safety Laws in Hawaii

The Hawaii Occupational Safety and Health Law is one of the state's labor and employment laws. This statute requires employers to provide employees with a safe working environment free of dangers that cause harm or death. These include equipping the workplace with devices and safeguards, maintaining records of injuries and illnesses, and adopting safe processes and practices.

Employees also have rights and responsibilities under this law. One is submitting complaints to the Hawaii Occupational Safety & Health Division. If you believe your working conditions are unsafe or hazardous, you can file a report with the department. You can either submit a complaint online or through mail. 

The department will examine your complaint. If the HIOSH considers that the workplace needs to be investigated, it will perform an on-site inspection. You, or a representative, can participate in the inspection.

If you or another employee is hurt on the job, seek medical assistance as soon as possible. Furthermore, for fatalities, you must inform the HIOSH within eight hours, and for inpatient hospitalization, amputation, or loss of body part/s, you must notify the HIOSH within 24 hours. 

Disability Compensation

If you are injured at work, you may be entitled to certain types of compensation. The Hawaii Disability Compensation Division is in charge of enforcing compensation legislation such as Workers' Compensation, Prepaid Health Care, and Temporary Disability Insurance laws. 

An attorney can help you determine if you are eligible for workers' compensation. They can assist you in making a claim and obtaining the benefits you need for a smooth recovery.

Hawaii Labor Union Laws

A labor union is a collective of employees that organizes activities that focus on improving working conditions. Actions can include strikes, boycotts, and picketing. In Hawaii, a state that does not have right-to-work laws, employees have the right to form a union under Chapters 89 and 377 of the Hawaii Revised Statutes. 

Collective bargaining is one of the most significant rights of a labor union. It is a negotiation between the union's representatives and the employer. Through this, various matters can be subjected to negotiation, such as wages, hours, raises, and other terms and conditions of employment. If the employer agrees to the proposed conditions, they will then enter into a collective bargaining agreement. 

It is important to note that there are labor practices that are prohibited or considered unlawful:

  • Participation in a strike if the employee is not included in the appropriate bargaining unit involved in an impasse;

  • Violation of the terms of a collective bargaining agreement;

  • Refusal to bargain collectively in good faith;

  • Engagement in a secondary boycott;

  • Coercion of an employee to join a union;

  • Prevention of the formation of a union.

If you believe an employer, employee, or labor union has committed unlawful labor practices, you can file a complaint with the Hawaii Labor Relations Board.

Employment Discrimination Laws in Hawaii

The Hawaii Employment Practices Act is a law that protects employees from discrimination and harassment. Through this statute, it is illegal for someone to discriminate against another person based on the following:

  • Age;

  • Race;

  • Color;

  • Sex;

  • Gender identity or expression;

  • Sexual orientation;

  • Religion;

  • Ancestry;

  • Marital status;

  • Disability;

  • Court and arrest record;

  • Reproductive health decisions;

  • Domestic or sexual violence victim status.

There are parts of this legislation that detail various discriminatory practices. Among the unlawful actions are:

  • Denying an employee a pregnancy leave or not reinstating them to the same position after giving birth;

  • Paying someone less than the other employees of the opposite sex;

  • Refusing to hire someone because they will breastfeed at the workplace;

  • Denying equal benefits or jobs to a qualified individual due to their disability;

  • Inciting, compelling, or forcing someone to discriminate against another person

If you have been discriminated against in the workplace, you can file a complaint with the Hawaii Civil Rights Commission or with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. 

Required Labor Law Posters in Hawaii Workplaces

The primary goal of posters is to educate current and prospective employees about their rights in a way that can be easily seen while working. Based on Hawaii labor and employment laws, companies are mandated to display labor law posters in their workplaces. Below is a list of the required posters:

  • Wage and Hour Law;

  • Occupational Safety & Health Law;

  • Disability Compensation Law;

  • Law Prohibiting Employment Discrimination;

  • Unemployment Insurance Law;

  • Required Notice to Dislocated Workers/Plant Closings.

The Hawaii Department of Labor and Industrial Relations also has a complete Labor Law Poster with all the notices mentioned above. 

Is Hawaii an At-Will Employment State?

Yes. Hawaii is an at-will state. This means that your employer can choose to terminate your employment at any time, and they do not need to give a reason why. 

If your job is contractual, your employer must tell you why your contract was terminated. If you are a member of a union with which your employer has a collective bargaining agreement, you should consult with your union about your options.

What Qualifies as Wrongful Termination in Hawaii?

Despite Hawaii being an at-will employment state, there are situations where your termination can be considered wrongful according to Hawaii labor and employment laws. 

Wrongful termination owing to discrimination, for example, is illegal. It is unlawful for an employer, employment agency, or labor union in Hawaii to fire someone based on the protected categories specified in the previous section. 

What if you were fired because you reported your employer to the Hawaii Occupational Safety and Health Division for failing to follow workplace safety regulations? Is this another instance of wrongful termination? Yes, because it is illegal for your employer to retaliate against you after exercising your right to file a complaint with the HIOSH.

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

The methods for reporting your employer in Hawaii for wrongful termination vary depending on the nature of the complaint. 

For wrongful termination caused by discrimination, you can file a complaint with the Hawaii Civil Rights Commission. You must first answer a pre-complaint questionnaire, which the commission will use to assess your situation. You must indicate Fired/Discharged on the form as the act of discrimination committed against you. Afterward, there will be an investigation to check if there is sufficient evidence of discrimination.

You can also file a discrimination complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission if the case is a federal one or if the HCRC denies your complaint.   

You can file a whistleblower complaint with the HIOSH in circumstances involving occupational safety and health standards. You can submit the complaint online or by mail. If you are submitting the complaint by mail, you must include your name, address, and other relevant information so that the department can contact you. Below are the division's details on where you can send the document:

You can also file a lawsuit against your employer. To begin, you request a right-to-sue letter from the HCRC so that you can file a case in state court. It is recommended to hire a lawyer who can help you with your situation. Not only can they explain your rights, but also your options on how to solve your case.

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

The statute of limitations for a wrongful termination case in Hawaii is dependent on the factors influencing your situation. Below is a table detailing some of the time limits:

Cause of Wrongful Termination

Statute of Limitations


180 days from the last act of discrimination (HCRC)

300 days from the last of discrimination (EEOC)


30 days from the day the act of retaliation happened (HIOSH)

Breach of contract

6 years (both written and oral)

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

The amount that can be claimed in a Hawaii employment lawsuit is determined by the circumstances surrounding the case. The number of employees involved in the case, monetary costs (lost wages, medical expenses), non-economic damages (mental anguish), and the reason for termination and its severity (discrimination, retaliation) are all factors that can impact the verdict.

A wrongful termination case may be settled out of court. In Hawaii, the typical wrongful termination settlement ranges between $5,000 and $100,000. Meanwhile, jury awards in court can range from $100,000 to $500,000. 

Resources for Employees in Hawaii

Hawaii Department of Labor and Industrial Relations

The Hawaii Department of Labor and Industrial Relations oversees the implementation of labor and employment laws in the state. The Hawaii Civil Rights Commission, Occupational Safety and Health, and Wage Standards Division are among its offices that manage numerous employment-related processes and concerns. In addition, it posts required labor posters on its website for easier access. For more information regarding their services, you can contact them at (808) 586-8842.

Hawaii State Bar Association

The Hawaii State Bar Association has been serving the public and attorneys since 1899. One of its primary services is the Lawyer Referral and Information Service, which assists individuals in finding a lawyer who can assist them with their legal issues. Its attorneys deal with a wide range of legal matters, including employment and labor, bankruptcy, divorce, and social security. Individuals interested in learning more about the LRIS should call (808) 537-9140 or email The HSBA currently has over 8,000 members.  

Legal Aid Society of Hawaii

Since 1950, the Legal Aid Society of Hawaii has been providing services to low-income individuals free of charge. It features an online portal that displays a comprehensive list of information and references to assist people in dealing with their legal issues. It gives employees information on their rights, including what to do if their employers commit wage theft. You can reach the firm at (808)536-4302 to learn more about their services.

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