Unpaid Wage and Overtime Laws

Wage theft is a major problem across the United States. This crime occurs in many forms including payment less than minimum wage, failure to pay at least 1.5 times an employee’s regular rate for all hours worked beyond 40 in a single week, and illegal deductions from employee paychecks. Victims of this theft are often among those with the lowest wages which are already struggling to make ends meet.

Low-income workers are being robbed by employers through unpaid hours, pay below minimum wage, and unpaid overtime. These employees are losing 15 percent of their income and over 2,000 dollars a year. White collar workers report losing over 11,000 dollars a year. If your employer is breaking the law, there are steps you can take to get your money back.

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Recovering from Unpaid Wage and Overtime Laws

How Overtime Works

Overtime includes any amount of time an employee works more than 40 hours within a work week. Federal law states that employers who require employees to work overtime must pay one and a half times (150 percent) the regular rate for overtime hours.

Most states have laws regarding overtime pay as well. Employees are entitled to the law that provides the most benefits. State law offers more overtime wages than the federal law; your employer must follow the state mandate. However, if the federal law entitles you to overtime wages and your state doesn't, your employer must still follow federal law since the federal law is designed to protect all workers.

Common Wage Loss and Overtime Violations

Employers may use common tactics to avoid paying overtime wages to workers. Underpaid employees suffer in many ways that do not show up on a pay stub. Employers resort to sneaky tactics to force workers to work without proper pay. Some of the most common violations include:

  • Overtime violations - This occurs when employers fail to pay the mandatory requirement for all hours worked beyond 40 in each week.
  • Tip violations - Employers may confiscate tips received for their workers. Other instances include failing to add compensation to tips to reach minimum wage, sharing tips with non-tipped employees, or passing tips to management.
  • Off-the-clock work - Employers who require employees to complete work before clocking in or after the shift is over are breaking the law.
  • Misclassification - When workers are dishonestly classified as managers or salaried employees, they do not receive designated overtime pay.
  • Break violations - Employers sometimes fail to allow workers mandated meal and break times, forcing them to work through without pay.

How FLSA Protects Employees

The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) was passed in 1939 to ensure fair pay and equal work opportunities for all employees. The FLSA was originally passed during the depression to encourage employers to hire more workers in hopes of tackling unemployment. Today, the law protects workers from working for unfair wages.

The FLSA is responsible for setting a minimum wage, overtime pay eligibility, and child labor laws. The law requires overtime pay for all eligible employees who work more than 40 hours in a single workweek. The rate of pay for overtime set by the FLSA is one and a half times the regular rate an employee usually receives.

Who is Protected?

The majority of U.S. workers are protected by the FLSA. However, some occupations are exempt, and other laws govern others. Sometimes, state laws work to provide protection where federal gaps exist.

Workers covered by the FLSA are categorized as exempt or non-exempt. Non-exempt employees are entitled to minimum wage and overtime pay, exemptions are more complicated. An employee is usually exempt if s/he makes over 455 dollars a week, is paid on a salary basis, or performs exempt job duties. Exempt job duties include:

  • Executive - Employees hold an executive position if they supervise more than two people, hold a management position, or are in charge of hiring or firing.
  • Professional - Professional employees hold positions that require advanced educational training, including lawyers, physicians, teachers, and registered nurses. Professionals may also include creative positions like writers, journalists, actors, and musicians.
  • Administrative - Administrative duties may include human resources, public relations, and payroll. These positions are related to management or business operations which require a judgment of significant matters.

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How We Can Help with Unpaid Wage and Overtime Laws

Wage Claim Lawsuits

Wage claim lawsuits work to offer compensation to employees who have been a victim of unpaid wages. Employees who have approached their employer with proof of unpaid overtime only to be ignored or denied may consider filing an unpaid overtime lawsuit. A lawsuit can help you reclaim overtime pay. Interest, penalties, and your lawyer's fees may also be included in the settlement.

It can be complicated to determine whether you are eligible for an unpaid overtime lawsuit. It is recommended that you contact your state labor board to file a complaint regarding your unpaid wages. If you have already contacted the state and want to move forward with a lawsuit, it is important to contact an experienced lawyer to examine your case.

If other employees are suffering from lost wages, your attorney may be interested in filing an unpaid overtime class action lawsuit. The FLSA encourages unpaid overtime class action lawsuits, or collective actions by allowing plaintiffs to include other potential victims before filing suit. Sometimes, companies choose to settle class action lawsuits instead of risking the loss of millions of dollars at trial.

Attorneys Experienced with Unpaid Wage and Overtime Laws

When You Think You Have an Overtime Case

If you think you are the victim of wage theft including sub-minimum wage payments, unpaid overtime, or unfair exemption status by your employer an attorney who specializes in employment law can help. A lawyer can examine your case and identify the federal and state laws that apply to your situation. You may be eligible for compensation of unpaid wages, interest, and additional penalties.

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