You’re getting ready to open a new movie theater, and as a good entrepreneur, you want to make sure you’re in full compliance with the law. While organizing your company and obtaining all taxation and zoning approvals is part of the start-up process, you’ll have to be mindful of labor law when you begin operating, including understanding how the Fair Labor Standards Act applies to your employees.

Movie Theater Exemption

Workers at movie theaters -- but not those who work at theaters with stage productions -- are exempt from the Fair Labor Standards Act’s overtime provisions. This means movie theater owners are not required to pay employees overtime wages when they work more than 40 hours in a workweek. Overtime is the only FLSA exemption that theater owners receive, however, and they still are subject to the child labor, minimum wage and record-keeping portions of the law.

State Labor Laws

While movie theater employees are exempt from FLSA-based overtime legislation, they still may be covered by state or local law that requires employers to provide overtime pay. As of publication, thirty-five states’ labor laws require that employees earn overtime pay after reaching a weekly threshold, which varies from 40 to 48 hours by state. Many of these states’ overtime rules have their own exceptions or mirror federal requirements, so consult your state’s department of labor to determine if movie theater employees receive an exemption from state overtime regulations.

Salaried Positions

Salaried workers also may be exempt from FLSA overtime regulations in a theater. To qualify as a salaried, FLSA-exempt employee, the worker must be in a managerial position and earn at least $455 weekly. Because the primary advantage of placing workers on salary is to avoid overtime payments, however, placing a movie theater worker on salary typically doesn’t provide an employer with any additional benefits. And salaried workers receive their weekly salary regardless of the amount or quality of their work.

Limits to Exemptions

Exemptions apply to workers on a workweek basis and only apply to hours they work in a movie theater. Because of this, if your company operates a theater as well as a restaurant, and shares employees between the two businesses, the exemption typically doesn’t apply that week, regardless of the portion of hours worked at the theater. Similarly, employers should understand overtime exemptions don’t free them from limits placed on youth employees, including the type of work they can perform and the hours in which they can perform it.