Employment laws create an important structural framework that guides the relationship between employer and employee, providing protection for both. US employers must adhere to federal and state regulations—and the latter often differ from state to state, which can make it tough to keep up. Falling afoul of any federal or state laws, however, can result in extremely serious consequences for employers.
Alaska offers numerous worker protections that go above and beyond federal law. For instance, the Alaska minimum wage is higher than the federal rate, and employees are entitled to additional daily pay for any overtime hours they work. If you’re hiring in the Last Frontier, it’s absolutely crucial you know the state’s specific laws so you can remain in compliance with them.
Rest assured you’re following Alaskan regulations by checking out this primer on labor and employment laws in Alaska. And remember, you can scale your business quickly and compliantly by letting Rippling’s Professional Employer Organization service handle your tax registration and management.
Employment vs. labor law: What’s the difference?
The terms “employment law” and “labor law” are frequently used interchangeably. But did you know that they’re two legally distinct terms? Here’s the difference: While employment law refers to any matters that concern the relationship between an employer and an individual employee, labor law refers to matters between an employer and a group of people—typically, a labor union.
Here’s a brief breakdown of what employment and labor laws each encompass:
- Employment law covers topics like overtime pay, working days and hours, hiring practices, employee wages, workplace discrimination, and retaliation.
- Labor law is a subset of employment law. It includes topics like union dues, union membership, and collective bargaining agreements.
Wages and hours in Alaska
When it comes to paying Alaskan employees, employers must adhere to state minimum wage laws that differ from federal regulations, as well as some pretty unique overtime pay requirements. Read on to learn more.
Minimum wage in Alaska
The Alaska Department of Labor raised the minimum wage to $11.73 per hour at the start of 2024. This is higher than the current federal minimum wage rate, which is just $7.25 an hour.
When setting hourly wages for employees, Rippling makes it easy to stay in compliance with state laws. It automatically flags minimum wage violations based on where your employees are located—which is especially handy for ensuring compliance in Alaska, where the minimum wage is higher than the federal minimum wage.
Overtime pay in Alaska
Once in a while, it’s necessary for employees to work in addition to their regular hours. When this occurs, the state of Alaska requires employers to give them overtime pay.
When it comes to overtime laws, Alaska is somewhat unique: It’s one of just a few states to go beyond the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and require daily overtime pay. Employers must pay employees one and a half times their regular hourly wage for any hours worked over eight hours in a day. This is regardless of the number of hours the employee works in a week. With that being said, it’s crucial to note that employees are entitled to receive one and a half times their regular rate of pay for all hours worked over 40 hours in a workweek, too.
Rippling’s payroll software will help you adhere to Alaska’s unique overtime pay laws by automatically applying the correct pay rates when an employee’s hours trigger overtime pay requirements.
Breaks and rest periods in Alaska
According to the Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development’s Labor Standards and Safety Division, the state’s child labor laws stipulate that minors between 14 and 17 years of age are entitled to 30-minute break periods if they work five consecutive hours or more. Employees 18 and over aren’t entitled to breaks. If the employer decides to provide breaks and they last less than 20 minutes, these breaks must be paid.
Furthermore, it’s up to the employer if they want to provide meal breaks. If they do, and these breaks last longer than 20 minutes and the employee isn’t doing any work during that time, the employer doesn’t have to pay them.
Leaves of absence in Alaska
At times, it’s necessary for an employee to take time off work to deal with a pressing personal matter, whether they need to recover from an illness, navigate a serious health condition, or take care of a loved one. During this time, they shouldn’t have to wonder whether or not their job will be there when they get back. The federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) offers unpaid, job-protected leave to eligible employees for just this reason.
Alaska adheres to federal FMLA guidelines for private employers. Under the federal FMLA, a qualifying employee is entitled to up to 12 weeks of unpaid job-protected leave in a 12-month period. Although there is an Alaska Family Leave Act (AFLA) that’s similar, it’s only for covered public employees.
Employees are eligible for the FMLA if they meet the following requirements:
- They’ve worked for their employer for a minimum of 1,250 hours during the 12 months prior to their leave of absence.
- They’ve worked for a covered employer for at least 12 months.
- They work in a location where the employer has a minimum of 50 employees, all located within 75 miles.
Family leave in the Last Frontier state falls under the purview of the Alaska Department of Administration; you can contact them or learn more at doa.alaska.gov.
Military leave in Alaska
Military families are extremely common in Alaska—it’s estimated more than 10% of the state’s population has at least one family member who’s a service member. In light of this, the Alaska Department of Administration enacted Military Family Leave (MFL), a special, state-specific amendment of the FMLA.
Under the MFL—which has the same eligibility requirements as the FMLA and the same job-protected leave—employees can take up to 12 weeks of time off during a 12-month period for any qualifying urgent need related to a family member who is on covered active military duty.
Additionally, the MFL amendment provides employees with up to 26 weeks of leave if they need to take care of a covered service member who sustained a serious injury or illness in the line of duty.
Paid sick leave in Alaska
Currently, the state of Alaska defers to the employer on matters of sick leave and vacation time. There have been no regulations concerning these matters enacted by either the Alaska Department of Administration or the Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development.
Rippling can help you customize your vacation and sick leave policies in Alaska. You can automate your leave policy and gain full visibility into how employees are utilizing it.
Workplace safety in Alaska
Employers are legally responsible for maintaining a safe working environment by implementing company-wide workplace safety policies, providing employees with training, and giving workers personal protective equipment (if required to perform their jobs safely).
At the federal level, OSHA—the Occupational Safety and Health Administration—oversees regulations surrounding working conditions. Alaska Occupational Safety and Health (AKOSH), a division of the Alaska Department of Labor, oversees the state’s workplace safety and health laws. It’s responsible not only for enforcing regulations but also for offering training to help employers recognize hazards, and it’s where employers are required to report an illness, injury, or accident that occurs on the job.
AKOSH covers all private-sector employees, with some exceptions. You can learn more about the Alaska State Plan, as well as industries that are considered exemptions from AKOSH oversight, on the osha.gov website.
Alaska employers are legally required to carry workers’ compensation coverage. Rippling PEO offers a convenient pay-as-you-go workers’ comp plan, so you won’t have to pay upfront for the entire year. That leaves you free to scale your business in Alaska stress-free.
Discrimination and harassment laws in Alaska
Alaska’s civil rights and anti-discrimination laws reflect the diversity of the people populating the Last Frontier state. The Alaska State Commission for Human Rights enforces the tenets of the Alaska Human Rights Law at the state level. Under this law, it’s illegal for all employers, regardless of company size, to discriminate against or harass employees based on their:
- Sexual orientation and gender identity
- National origin
- Marital Status
- Physical or mental disability
- Change in marital status
Employers are responsible for remaining compliant with human rights laws throughout the employment relationship, from job posting to onboarding a candidate to paying, promoting, and terminating them. It’s illegal, for instance, to pay people different wages for the same job based on their race or sex.
The Alaska State Commission for Human Rights considers harassment to be a form of discrimination. Workplace harassment is a form of unwelcome conduct towards an employee that’s based on one of the protected characteristics listed above, and it includes behaviors like making verbal threats, insulting someone, making offensive jokes, and assaulting an individual physically or sexually.
It’s crucial to distinguish harassment from annoying incidents like a one-off joke. Specifically, to be considered harassment, a behavior must interfere with an employee’s well-being and work performance, and it must create an offensive environment that the employee is forced to withstand as a condition of employment.
Sexual harassment training requirements vary by state; while Alaska doesn’t have any requirements for private employers, it’s still a good idea to proactively make sure your employees receive training. After all, both in Alaska and other states, employers are responsible for the words and actions of their employees, even if they weren’t aware of misconduct at the time it occurred. Rippling’s Learning Management System is pre-loaded with core sexual harassment training courses to ensure each employee meets the state requirements based on where they live.
Unions in Alaska
Labor unions are groups of employees who “act collectively” or join together to ensure they receive fair working conditions. They typically negotiate with their employer over issues like higher wages, more overtime pay, better working hours and benefits packages, and additional time off. Under the federal National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), employees are guaranteed the following rights:
- Organize or join a union so they can negotiate with the company that employs them.
- Bargain collectively and select their own representatives to negotiate contracts that determine working conditions.
- Discuss the conditions and terms of employment with their fellow workers.
- Take action by filing complaints with either their employer or the government or ask a union for help organizing.
- Strike and picket.
- Abstain from joining a union if they so choose.
The NLRA strictly forbids coercion of any kind on both the part of employers and unions. In other words, neither party can take retaliatory action against an employee for choosing to support a union or deciding not to.
There’s also union-related legislation enacted on a state-by-state basis. This includes “right-to-work” laws, also known as workplace freedom or workplace choice. Under right-to-work laws, employees have the freedom to decide whether or not they’ll join a union at their workplace. Alaska is not a right-to-work state, so if an individual is hired at a workplace with a union, they may be required to pay union dues as a condition of employment, even if they don’t want to be a member.
FAQs about Alaska labor and employment laws
Are independent contractors covered under Alaska employment laws?
No. The Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development carefully differentiates between employees and independent contractors, and the latter are not entitled to the rights of the former. You do, however, need to classify your workers correctly to remain in compliance with Alaska state law—our analyzer tool can help you.
Does at-will employment exist in Alaska?
Yes. Alaska is an at-will employment state, which means an employer can terminate an employee without being required to provide a warning at any time and for any reason—so long as their reason isn’t illegal. In turn, employees can quit their jobs without providing notice and for any reason.
What privacy rights do employees have in Alaska?
Privacy is considered a fundamental right in the state of Alaska. Alaskan employees have the right to expect their sensitive personal information to be kept confidential and make their own decisions about their personal lives.
Does Alaska have pay transparency laws?
No. Although the state government has considered it, no pay transparency law has been passed in Alaska as of 2024.
Are background checks legal in Alaska?
Yes. Alaska has no state requirements when it comes to background checks. Employers are permitted to ask a job applicant about their criminal history at any point—there’s no “ban the box” legislation in the state, nor is any currently being considered. The only regulations employers must adhere to are federal laws.
Are whistleblowers protected in Alaska?
All Alaskan citizens are protected from retaliation by the Alaska Whistleblower Act.
Is workers’ compensation coverage required in Alaska?
Yes. Under the Alaska Workers’ Compensation Act, employers with one or more employees are required to purchase workers’ compensation insurance. The only exceptions to this rule are those employers approved as self-insurers by the Alaska Workers’ Compensation Board. The penalties for non-compliance are steep: Employers who don’t provide workers’ comp can be fined $1,000 per employee per day for every day they don’t offer insurance coverage.
Are there required healthcare benefits in Alaska?
Federal law requires employers with 50 or more full-time employees to provide health insurance benefits. There are no additional state mandates requiring employers with fewer than 50 employees to offer healthcare in the state of Alaska.
Are Alaska employers required to provide bereavement leave?
No, in the state of Alaska, it’s not mandatory for employers to give employees either bereavement leave or time off to attend a funeral.
What employee protections are available in Alaska if layoffs occur?
The federal Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act provides protections to employees in the event of mass layoffs by requiring covered businesses to give workers 60 days’ notice before they’re laid off.
Disclaimer: Rippling and its affiliates do not provide tax, legal, or accounting advice. This material has been prepared for informational purposes only, and is not intended to provide, and should not be relied on for tax, legal, or accounting advice. You should consult your own tax, legal, and accounting advisors before engaging in any related activities or transactions.