Unpaid Overtime and Wage Violations

The laws designed to protect hardworking American employees are being ignored by a concerning number of employers as a cost-cutting measure. From unpaid overtime to independent contractor misclassification, wage violations are committed every day across the country.

If your employer has failed to adequately pay you for overtime, misclassified you as a contractor, or otherwise violated wage and hour laws, you could be owed compensation — and Sokolove Law may be able to help.

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Industries Most Affected by Wage Theft

Everyone, regardless of income level or background, can potentially fall victim to wage and hour violations. That being said, wage theft is particularly common among the following industries and occupations:

  • Call center employees
  • Childcare
  • Construction
  • Factory workers
  • Food service
  • Gardeners
  • Gas station employees
  • Home care
  • Hospitality
  • Interns
  • Janitors
  • Nursing
  • Parking attendants
  • Restaurant workers
  • Retail
  • Textile workers

Theft of wages causes financial hardship for workers who are trying to provide for their families. Thankfully, an unpaid overtime lawyer may be able to help people who have worked unpaid overtime to file a lawsuit and pursue the compensation they have rightly earned.

Fair Labor Standards Act

The Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, or FLSA, guarantees certain workplace protections for employees. It establishes the following rights for workers:

  • Fair Labor Standards Act minimum wage: Since 2009, the minimum wage for all full-time employees in the U.S. has been $7.25 per hour. In the 29 states (and the District of Columbia) where the state minimum wage is higher than the federal minimum wage, workers are entitled to the higher rate of pay.
  • FLSA child labor laws: Federal child labor laws are designed to preserve the educational opportunities of workers under the age of 18 and to shield them from jobs and work conditions that are hazardous to their health, safety, or well-being. Different industries (e.g., amusement parks, farms, grocery stores, recreation) have different guidelines.
  • FLSA overtime rule: Nonexempt employees are owed at least 1.5x (aka “time and a half”) their regular hourly pay rate for hours worked over 40 in a week. For example, if a nonexempt employee worked 45 hours in a week, they should earn time and a half for five hours.
  • Hours worked: The FLSA outlines what constitutes “hours worked,” which generally includes the time when an employee is required to be on duty, on call, at their place of employment, or traveling from job site to job site. Rest breaks also qualify as hours worked, though not if they’re excessively long or frequent.
  • Record-keeping: Employers are required to keep accurate records for all employees, including their full names, Social Security numbers, birthdates, job titles, hours worked each day and week, hourly pay rates, and total wages each pay period, among other records.

Though no law is perfect, the federal Fair Labor Standards Act offers victims of unpaid overtime, employee misclassification, and other forms of wage theft a legal course of action through which they may be able to seek justice.

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If you think that you may have been the victim of wage theft or unpaid overtime, Sokolove Law may be able to help.

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FLSA Exemption Categories

Depending on their salary and role, some employees are exempt from FLSA overtime laws. FLSA-exempt employees are not owed the same overtime rate as other employees, so they may not be eligible for an unpaid overtime lawsuit.

Examples of workers who might meet the criteria for FLSA overtime exemptions include:

  • Certain aircraft, auto, farm equipment, trailer, and truck salespersons
  • Certain retail or service employees
  • Domestic service employees who live in the home where they work
  • Farmworkers
  • Movie theater employees
  • Railroad workers
  • Seamen on American vessels
  • Taxi drivers
  • White-collar workers who make a certain amount per week

Still not sure if you’re FLSA-exempt? Contact an unpaid overtime law firm who may be able to help you pursue compensation in the event that you’re not exempt from overtime laws.

Overtime Laws

Unless you’re classified as an exempt worker, under federal overtime law, your employer must pay overtime wages for any hours you work over 40 hours in a workweek. Overtime wage laws state that these hours must be paid at a rate no less than 1.5x (or 150%) the employee’s regular rate of pay.

When employers fail to adequately compensate workers for their overtime, they open themselves up to potential legal action. An overtime lawyer may be able to file a lawsuit on behalf of the employee, seeking compensation for unpaid wages.

Wage and Hour Violations

Unfortunately, unpaid overtime wages are not the only type of wage theft employers have been known to engage in.

Wage violations can take many forms, including the following examples of unpaid hours at work:

  • Lunch or rest breaks
  • Off-the-clock work
  • On-call time
  • Travel or training time

If you’re a nonexempt employee, you’re entitled to wages for all the time you work and any other compensation you earn.

The time you work generally includes all the hours you’re in service to your employer, even if you’re not performing your usual duties. If you attend on-the-job meetings or training, for example, your employer must pay you for those hours.

Wage Violations in the Service Industry

Bar and restaurant workers are particularly susceptible to wage and hour violations. An investigation by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division (WHD) found that 83.8% of nearly 9,000 full-service restaurants were guilty of at least one type of wage and hour violation.

Examples of wage theft in the service industry include:

  • Docking employees’ pay for customers who leave without paying — or for damaged plates, glasses, etc. — which results in the employee earning less than minimum wage
  • Fixed income per shift or pay period
  • Illegal deductions from paychecks
  • Mandatory training that is either unpaid or not tipped, causing workers to earn less than minimum wage
  • Neglecting to pay the hourly rate for tipped workers
  • Tip pools that are shared with management or non-service staff who don’t typically receive tips
  • Unpaid prep or cleanup work

Victim of Wage Violations?

You may be eligible for compensation. Get the help you deserve.

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Misclassifying Employees as Contractors

Many companies refuse to pay overtime wages or provide benefits on the basis that their employees are exempt. Often, the way they execute this theft is by misclassifying full-time employees as independent contractors.

According to the National Employment Law Project (NELP), 10-30% of employers “misclassify their employees as independent contractors, which indicates that several million workers nationally may be misclassified.”

Employee misclassification is especially rampant in the following sectors:

  • Construction
  • Home care
  • Janitorial
  • Real estate
  • Rideshare companies (Uber or Lyft)
  • Tech
  • Trucking

The penalties for misclassifying employees as contractors can be stiff. In 2019, the state of New Jersey hammered Uber with a $650 Million bill for unemployment and disability taxes that the ride-hailing giant allegedly skirted by misclassifying its drivers as independent contractors.

In addition, misclassified employees may be able to file a lawsuit seeking compensation for lost wages, unpaid overtime, denied benefits, and other damages.

Filing an Unpaid Overtime Claim

If your company is not paying overtime or has failed to pay the rate mandated by the FLSA, you may be able to file an overtime lawsuit seeking back pay for the overtime hours you’ve worked.

When you work with Sokolove Law, an overtime attorney can help you determine if you qualify for legal action. If you have a case, we can gather the necessary evidence, handle all the paperwork, and ensure your wage claim is filed on time.

Depending on where you live, state laws may include a deadline (or “statute of limitations”) that limits how long you have to file an overtime claim, so be sure to reach out to Sokolove Law as soon as possible for a free consultation.

Wage and Hour Lawsuit Settlements

Though there is no guarantee of compensation, many unpaid overtime lawsuits are settled before they go to trial. Wage and hour lawsuit settlements can total millions of dollars for employees who had their wages unlawfully docked or stolen.

There have been a number of high-profile settlements in recent years, including:

  • Amazon agreed to pay $13.5 Million to compensate warehouse workers for mandatory security screenings they were not paid for.
  • CVS Pharmacy agreed to pay $10.4 Million to compensate California employees for training modules that were originally unpaid.
  • ABM Industries agreed to pay $140 Million to 50,000 janitors for whom the company allegedly kept inaccurate records.

What to Look for in an Unpaid Overtime Attorney

Filing an overtime lawsuit can be difficult without the right legal representation in your corner. To find an overtime lawyer with the resources to successfully resolve your case, be sure to look for a law firm that can offer you:

  • 45 Years of Experience: Sokolove Law has been helping Americans who have been wronged pursue compensation for over four decades.
  • Free Case Reviews: Don’t waste time wondering if you qualify for legal action. Get a free case review to see if you’re eligible for an unpaid overtime lawsuit.
  • National Reach: Sokolove Law is a national firm with an office in almost every state. We’ve helped clients nationwide get the results they deserve.
  • Proven Track Record of Success: We have recovered over $9.4 Billion for our clients across all practice areas.

Get Help Filing an Overtime Lawsuit

If you’ve been the victim of unpaid overtime or another form of wage theft, you may be able to pursue compensation through a wage and hour lawsuit — and we may be able to help.

For over 45 years, Sokolove Law has been fighting for American workers who were wronged through no fault of their own. Over that time, we’ve helped our clients recover more than $9.4 Billion.

To find out if you qualify for compensation, contact us for a free, no-obligation consultation.


What does FLSA stand for?

FLSA stands for the Fair Labor Standards Act, a law passed in 1938 that ensures certain protections for American workers. These employee rights pertain to the federal minimum wage (currently $7.25 per hour), overtime, the number of hours worked, record-keeping, and child labor.

What is the Fair Labor Standards Act?

The Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, or FLSA, is a federal law designed to protect American workers from wage and hour violations, unpaid overtime, inaccurate record-keeping, and unsafe or unfair child labor conditions. It also guarantees a minimum wage of $7.25 per hour for nonexempt employees.

Can I sue for lost wages?

If you’re a nonexempt, full-time employee who wasn’t paid for overtime work, short lunch or rest breaks, off-the-clock work, mandatory training, on-call time, or travel time, you may be able to file a wage and hour lawsuit seeking compensation for lost wages.

Can I sue for not getting paid on time?

Under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), employers are required to pay employees for their work during the following pay period. Failure to do so may open up employers to a wage and hour lawsuit, through which employees may be able to recover double damages — twice the amount they were originally owed.

Can you sue an employer for misclassification?

Employees who were misclassified as independent contractors may be able to file a lawsuit and pursue compensation for lost wages, unpaid overtime, denied benefits, and other damages. Employee misclassification lawsuits are especially common in the construction, home care, janitorial, real estate, rideshare, and trucking industries.

When does overtime start?

Nonexempt employees are entitled to overtime pay for every hour worked past the 40-hour mark in a given workweek. For example, an employee who works 50 hours in a week would be owed overtime pay — 1.5x their regular hourly rate — for 10 hours.

Is not paying overtime illegal?

Failure to pay overtime to nonexempt employees who work more than 40 hours in a workweek is a violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). Victims of overtime violations should contact an unpaid overtime lawyer to see if they qualify for a wage and hour lawsuit.

What is the FLSA exempt test?

The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) exemption test is a questionnaire created by the FLSA to help employees determine if they are exempt from overtime laws and other wage and hour laws. Many white-collar employees who make a certain amount per week are not entitled to overtime pay.

What is the current minimum wage set by the FLSA?

Since 2009, the FLSA minimum salary for all nonexempt employees in the U.S. has been $7.25 per hour. In the 29 states (and the District of Columbia) where the state minimum wage is higher than the federal minimum wage, workers are entitled to the higher rate of pay.

Sokolove Law Team

Contributing Authors

The Sokolove Law Content Team is made up of writers, editors, and journalists. We work with case managers and attorneys to keep site information up to date and accurate. Our site has a wealth of resources available for victims of wrongdoing and their families.

Last modified: May 11, 2024

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  7. Dailey, Kathleen. "Amazon Workers Secure $13.5 Million Wage Deal Over Bag Checks." Bloomberg Law. July 26, 2021. Retrieved August 11, 2021. https://news.bloomberglaw.com/class-action/amazon-workers-secure-13-5-million-wage-deal-over-bag-checks
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