As a working massage therapist, you may be asking yourself, "How many hours do I have to work to be considered a full-time employee?" You imagine doing 40 hours of hands-on massage a week, and your head starts spinning. So let's break this down for Washington State workers.
The Fair Labor and Standards Act (FLSA) does not set parameters for full or part time work for private companies. That means that employers can decide if 20 hours is considered full time, for such things as determining if an employee qualifies for health insurance through their job.
Each state has its own Department of Labor that oversees employment practices at the state level. The Washington DOL has set 40 hours a week (Sunday - Saturday) as the standard of full time employment. That again, doesn’t mean that an employer can’t set a lower number for its own purposes, but rather that when it comes to qualifying for unemployment benefits, 39 or fewer hours per week is considered part-time employment. And that claimants of unemployment benefits must be physically able, available and actively seeking to work 40 hours.
What does that mean for massage therapists then, when a full schedule maxes out at around 30 hours of massage per week?
Let’s look at a piece of the picture that most of us aren’t looking for. When you see 30 clients for 30 hours of massage, is that all the work that you do? I suspect that you’re expected to arrive 15 minutes before your shift starts, and stay at least 15 minutes after it ends, and that between each client there’s about 15 minutes of work to be done in cleaning and filling out treatment notes. Did you know that those increments of work time actually count towards your total hours of work, even if your employer isn’t paying you for them directly?
A lot of employers are clueless when it comes to calculating and reporting work hours. They might add up all of your massage hours, and forget about all of the non-massage hours when you were working. That causes them to underreport. Maybe they report 30 hours of work and total gross pay of $900 for a week, when you actually worked a total of 2 unreported hours (when you add up all those 15 minute increments) each day. They should have reported 40 work hours and $900 gross pay.
Is this making sense? Regardless of how pay is calculated - hours of work need to be based on clock in and clock out times.
This only becomes an issue however, when you become unemployed through no fault of your own. When you go to apply for unemployment benefits, you may not qualify if your employer underreported your work hours. Or if you do qualify initially, but later report that you are only looking for 25-30 hours of work per week, then you would not qualify to collect weekly benefits - because you have to be looking for full time (40 hours/week) work.
If you ever get into a situation where your underreported hours are preventing you from accessing unemployment benefits, there is a solution. You need to tell the Employment Security Department of the mistake and ask them to do a redetermination of hours.