Whether you are a permanent resident of the US or a temporary worker you are legally covered by worker's rights to minimum pay and safe working conditions. This guide will focus on working life in America and look at some of the rights you can expect as well as exploring the working culture of the US.
The UK has one minimum wage law that applies to everyone working anywhere within the UK. Unfortunately in the US it's not quite that simple. Minimum wages differ from state to state and in some jobs, such as bar staff and waitressing, your tips will form part of your minimum wages.
On a federal level, the minimum wage is $7.25. The lowest state minimum wage is in Wyoming at $5.15 per hour which is reduced to $2.13 for employees who receive tips. The highest paying state is Washington which pays $9.04. This increases yearly and is set to rise to $9.19 in 2013. Whilst this might seem like a great salary, it's worth bearing in mind that Washington is an expensive place to live. The rest of the states more or less fall in with the federal minimum wage.
It will come as no surprise to hear that bar staff, waitressing and cleaning are amongst the lowest paid professions in America whilst medicine, engineering and business management are the highest paying professions.
US law does not require private companies to grant leave to its employees and in fact it is estimated that around 25% of workers receive no paid vacation at all. If you want paid holidays then you are better off working for the US state, local government or the army where you can expect around 10 days annual leave (30 days for the Armed Forces).
Whilst paid holidays are not a legal requirement, nevertheless most US employers do offer employees around 10-20 days of paid annual leave. There are a number of national holidays which again vary by state but your employer is under no obligation to allow you time off to observe such holidays. There are 10 Federal holidays that Federal employees are entitled to take off.
Belonging to a worker's union can guarantee you support on things such as wages, benefits and working conditions. Most unions fall under two organisations, the AFL-CIO and the Change to Win Federation. Public sector workers are protected by labour laws and therefore cannot organise or join an union.
Americans pride themselves on their working culture and in fact the phrase "24/7" originated in America. Everything is available around the clock, from fast food to the gym but of course these eternally available services need staff to provide them and so the average American works much longer hours than their European counterparts. The only consolation for that is with everything available at all hours, you can pretty much have your social life at any time of the day or night!