In general, part-time hours are any number of work hours in a week that fall below the standard prescribed by state law or company policy for full-time employment. The federal Fair Labor Standards Act leaves full-time and part-time employment definitions up to employers. In some cases, state laws intervene to define employment status for public or private employees.
The generally accepted weekly work requirement for full-time employment is 40 hours per week. Some states legally define part-time employment as working less than 35 hours per week, according to Find Law. Other states make no such declaration. Instead, it is typical that employers are required to pay overtime to employees who work more than 40 hours per week. Also, while the FLSA doesn't tie fringe benefits to employment status, states may dictate that companies provide certain benefits to part-time employees who exceed work hour thresholds, such as 32 or 35 hours per week.
Public vs. Private Employee Examples
The U.S. Office of Personnel Management dictates that part-time employment for government agency workers is between 16 and 32 hours. Part-time government employees get prorated fringe benefits equal to those provided to full-time government workers.
Ohio state law deems part-time public employees as those who work less than 80 hours every two-week period. As with federal and other state laws, Ohio leaves it up to private employers to define part-time status. Texas is another state that allows private employers to define full-time and part-time job statuses for employees, according to the Texas Workforce Commission. Employer-based definitions typically correlate with company benefit policies.
Clear definitions of what constitutes full-time and part-time employment helps private employers protect against confusion and misunderstandings about employee benefits.
Part-time employees often work 40 hours or more in a given week. However, they typically don't average a number of hours that exceed state or company full-time status requirements. Part-time workers often don't get the benefits, such as insurance, enjoyed by full-time peers. Employers may prorate benefits based on the number of hours worked each week. Some states require that employers pay benefits to all workers who meet certain hour requirements, even when the employer doesn't define that worker as "full-time."
A part-time employee is normally paid on an hourly basis, according to FindLaw. Also, part-timers routinely work variable schedules, which means their work hours change from one day to the next and one week to the next.
Neil Kokemuller has been an active business, finance and education writer and content media website developer since 2007. He has been a college marketing professor since 2004. Kokemuller has additional professional experience in marketing, retail and small business. He holds a Master of Business Administration from Iowa State University.