The laws that were designed to protect hardworking Americans are being ignored by an increasing number of employers as a cost cutting measure during today’s tough economy. From unpaid overtime to employee misclassification, employment violations are committed every day across the nation. In fact, wage and hour lawsuits have increased dramatically in the last decade. Workplace violations aren’t limited to minority populations, low-paid workers or the uneducated. Everyone, regardless of income level or background, is potentially at risk.
Wage and Hour Terminology
“Exempt” employees earn a set salary and are not eligible for overtime under the law. In general there are 3 criteria that must be looked at in order to be classified as an exempt employee which are salary level, salary basis (set amount for a set time) and duties.
“Non exempt” employees are not exempt from overtime under the law and are eligible to overtime pay if more than 40 hours are worked in a workweek.
As an employee, you perform certain duties, and in turn you’re paid the wages you and your employer agreed on. This arrangement can work well, as long as both you and your employer stick with the agreement—and the agreement complies with the law.
Unless you’re specifically classified as an “exempt” worker, under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), your employer must pay overtime wages for any hours you work over 40 hours in a workweek. Overtime wages must be paid at a rate no less than one and one-half times (150%) your regular hourly rate.
As a non-exempt 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 doing your usual duties. If you attend on-the-job meetings or training, for example, your employer must pay you for those hours.
Companies sometimes refuse to pay overtime wages on the basis that employees are “exempt”. Perhaps they fail to provide benefits because workers are “independent contractor.” The company’s reasoning is fine – if your classification is appropriate. Misclassification of employees is a common problem, however. According to the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO), in 2007, states uncovered at least 150,000 workers whose employers misclassified them as independent contractors when they should have been classified as employees.
Examples of Employment Violations
Workplace violations occur in many ways and can happen in many professions such as the Medical, Retail/Sales, and Administrative fields. See below for instances of FSLA violations.
Nurses and medical staff paid on an hourly basis are frequently denied overtime pay. Millions of dollars in back wages have been spent by the nation’s hospitals to settle unpaid overtime and other wage claims brought by the government and hospital employees.
Hourly employees are often misclassified by employers as exempt or independent contractors when they are actually non-exempt employees and entitled to overtime and other benefits such as lunch or rest breaks, travel or training time, on-call time and off-the-clock-work.
Assistant managers are often given the same responsibilities as managers, but do not hold proper authority if another manager is present during their working hours. These individuals are entitled to compensation and benefits in accordance with their management position.
High Risk Industries
Restaurant Employees: In recent years, The U.S. Department of Labor has begun targeting restaurants in their wage and hour investigations – and rightfully so. In 2011 alone, restaurants across the nation paid approximately $22.5 million in back pay for FLSA violations. Common violations in restaurants are:
- Unpaid “prep work” or “cleanup” work
- Tip pools that are shared with management or non-service staff that do not typically receive tips
- Neglecting to pay the hourly rate for tipped workers
- Mandatory training that is either unpaid or tips are not paid, causing them to earn wages lower than minimum wage
- Fixed income per shift or pay period
- Docking employee pay for customers that leave without paying, or for damage of plates, glasses, etc, which result in the employee being paid less than minimum wage.
Unpaid Interns: In many ways, unpaid internships are looked at as the new “entry level” jobs. However, the Department of Labor has 6 criteria that must be met in order for and unpaid internship to be legal.
- The training, even though it includes actual operation of the facilities of the employer, is similar to that which would be given in a vocational school;
- The training is for the benefit of the trainee;
- The trainees do not displace regular employees, but work under close observation;
- The employer that provides the training derives no immediate advantage from the activities of the trainees and on occasion the employer’s operations may actually be impeded;
- The trainees are not necessarily entitled to a job at the completion of the training period; and
- The employer and the trainee understand that the trainees are not entitled to wages for the time spent in training.
The Fair Labor Standards Act (FSLA)
The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) guarantees certain workplace rights and protections for employees. Theft of wages causes financial hardship for workers who are trying to provide for their families in this challenging economy. You may be one of them.
Take a Stand Today
If you or someone you know has been denied overtime pay or been misclassified by an employer, you may be entitled to compensation and lost wages. Fill out the form on this page or call (800) 995-1212 today to receive a free case evaluation from one of our attorneys. We’ll start processing your form within 24 hours and, if you have a case, quickly work to fight for the money you may be entitled to. We have more than 40 years of experience helping our clients obtain the justice and fair compensation they deserve, so act now.