Employers must pay wages to their workers, and there are complex laws that guide them. The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) governs all minimum wage requirements, overtime rules and employee classifications. It also sets employer requirements for record keeping, reporting and notification. The FLSA is designed to protect all workers, including minors, part-time workers, full-time workers, and even those who work largely for tips. Calculating wages and overtime is a complicated task with many variables. The FLSA contains hundreds of pages of rules and regulations covering exemptions and other aspects of the law. Your wage and overtime attorney can help navigate the rules imposed on your employer by the FLSA.
Unpaid or underpaid wages, unpaid or underpaid overtime, minimum wage violations and wage discrimination are just some of the issues that you may face if your employer is violating the FLSA. Farris, Riley & Pitt has experience with wage and overtime claims in Alabama and can help you if your employer has paid you improperly. We can easily navigate the complex FLSA laws and help figure out if you have a claim against your employer for unpaid wages or overtime. Several attorneys at our firm have filed multi-district class action claims on behalf of underpaid employees and recovered millions in back pay and overtime.
Minimum Wage Violations
The minimum wage law is fairly simple. Employers must pay workers a lawful minimum wage under federal law. The federal minimum wage varies over time and states can set a different rate as long as it is not below the one set by federal standards. As of November 1, 2014, the minimum wage in Alabama is the same as the federal rate of $7.25 per hour. Although employers know the minimum wage laws, some try to profit by paying less to their workers.
There are few exceptions to the minimum wage requirements, but they do exist. Employers are not always required to pay minimum wage to:
- Workers a certain seasonal amusement or recreational parks
- Employees of certain small newspapers and switchboard operators of small phone companies
- Seamen employed on foreign vessels
- Employees in fishing operations
- Newspaper delivery employees
- Farm workers employed on small farms
- Casual babysitters Companions to the sick or elderly http://www.dol.gov/compliance/guide/minwage.htm
If you do not fall into one of the above categories and are being paid less than minimum wage, contact our office.
Unpaid or Underpaid Wage Claims
By law, employers must pay employees for every hour they work. There is always a dispute about when a workday or pay period begins or ends and the rules that govern “work time” are extremely complex. Laws and the courts have tried to clarify what constitutes work time to make it easier for employees to earn proper compensation. The FLSA and other workplace laws require that an employer pay an employee for any time that is controlled by and that benefits the employer, even if the work is voluntary. If you are working and not being paid for your time, you may be entitled to money.
Employers can violate this law by not counting certain employee time as work time. For example, your boss may ask you to “work off the clock” and perform duties before or after you officially sign into work. Your employer may refuse to pay you for travel time, when travel is part of your job requirement. Maybe your employer does not pay you for the time you have to spend at training seminars or professional development. Your employer might owe you money for the work you perform on a break. You may even be entitled to compensation for any time you spend “on call” or for paid vacation you did not take.
Unpaid wage claims are tricky because of the complex nature of defining work time. Having an experienced team investigating on your behalf can help determine if you are entitled to wages your employer has unfairly withheld. Remember you are legally entitled to compensation for every hour you work.
The overtime law sounds simple. It states that employers must pay employees who are covered by the FLSA for all hours worked in excess of 40 hours in any workweek, at a rate of one and one-half times their regular pay rate. For example, Bob earns $20.00 per hour. Bob works 45 hours in a workweek. Bob will earn $30.00 per hour for the extra 5 hours, which is one and one-half times his regular pay rate.
While this calculation seems easy, the overtime laws are extraordinarily complex. There are broad exemptions and outdated rules that employers try to use to avoid the cost of paying overtime to entitled employees. Unpaid or underpaid overtime is a significant source of conflicts between employers and employees, and often results in litigation. If you are working over 40 hours per week and not being paid for overtime, you may have a claim against your employer.
The main hurdle to overcome in overtime law is to determine whether or not the law applies to the type of work you do. Are you exempt from overtime? Most likely you are not. Most jobs require that an employer pay overtime- factory workers, office workers, store clerks, and warehouse employees are all generally entitled to overtime. Remember, the laws are in place to protect employees. If you are not sure whether or not you are entitled to overtime pay, contact our attorneys at Farris, Riley & Pitt.
The FLSA states that there are only two situations that make you ineligible to earn overtime. In the first situation, you earn more than a certain amount of money per week. In the other, you perform a certain type of “white collar” work. If your work does not fall into one of these categories, you are non-exempt, and your employer must pay time and a half for every hour you work more than 40 in a week. Employers often try to say that an employee is exempt, even if they are not.
Exemptions from Overtime Under the Fair Labor Standard Act
The FLSA contains three main exemptions. If your employer can prove that your job falls into one of them, you are exempt from overtime.
To show that you are exempt, your employer must prove that you are paid on a salary basis (at least $455 per week) and that your principal work duties are professional, administrative or executive in nature. There are numerous tests used to determine what these categories mean. They are complex and leave room for a manipulative employer to try to avoid paying what is rightfully yours. What matters, is the true nature of the work and pay, not the superficial title or categorization.
Salary Basis Test – The salary basis test means that you are exempt if your pay is predetermined and fixed and does not vary based on the amount of hours you work. If you punch a time card or fill in time sheets, and your compensation varies based on the numbers of hours you clock, then you are a non-exempt employee and entitled to overtime. If an employer docks money for short term absences or poor work quality, from a salaried employee, then the employee is not a true exempt salaried worker. The employer has to pay that worker overtime.
Duties Tests – If you perform duties that fall into the “white collar” exemption you are not entitled to receive overtime pay. The duties test is specific to each exemption.
To prove that your duties are executive, your employer must prove three things:
Your primary duty is managing the business or a specific department of the business.
You customarily and regularly direct the work of at least two full-time employees: and
You have the authority to hire or fire other employees, or have significant input into hiring, firing and other important employment decisions.
A truly exempt administrator under the FLSA must:
Primarily perform office or non-manual work directly related to the management or general business operations of your company; and
Primarily exercise discretion and independent judgment with respect to important company business.
To prove that your duties are professional, your employer must demonstrate all of the following:
Your primary duty involves work that requires advanced knowledge, such as work which is predominantly intellectual in character and which includes work requiring the consistent exercise of discretion and judgment.
The advanced knowledge must be in the field of science or learning.
The advanced knowledge must be customarily acquired by an advanced degree. This exemption applies if your primary duty involves artistic or creative work.
The FLSA also contains a special overtime exemption for certain computer employees. According to the US Department of Labor, to qualify for the computer employee exemption, the following tests must be met:
The employee must be compensated either on a salary or fee basis at a rate not
- less than $455 per week or, if compensated on an hourly basis, at a rate not
- less than $27.63 an hour;
The employee must be employed as a computer systems analyst, computer
- programmer, software engineer or other similarly skilled worker in the computer field performing the duties described below;
The employee’s primary duty must consist of:
The application of systems analysis techniques and procedures, including consulting with users to determine hardware, software or system functional specifications;
The design, development, documentation, analysis, creation, testing or modification of computer systems or programs, including prototypes, based on and related to user or system design specifications;
The design, documentation, testing, creation or modification of computer programs related to machine operating systems; or
A combination of the aforementioned duties, the performance of which requires the same level of skills. http://www.dol.gov/whd/regs/compliance/fairpay/fs17e_computer.htm
The federal government added an additional exemption called the outside sales employee exemption. The definition of sales and the related terms of this exemption are complex. To show that an employee fits this exemption, all of the following tests must be met:
The employee’s primary duty must be making sales (as defined in the FLSA), or obtaining orders or contracts for services or for the use of facilities for which a consideration will be paid by the client or customer; and
The employee must be customarily and regularly engaged away from the employer’s place or places of business. http://www.dol.gov/whd/overtime/fs17f_outsidesales.pdf
For additional information on federal overtime laws and exemptions go to the Department of Labor website. http://www.dol.gov/whd/overtime_pay.htm
The Fair Labor Standards Act was enacted to protect employee’s’ rights and sets minimum standards that employers must follow. If you fall into the categories above, and an employer can prove it, you are not entitled to overtime compensation. An employer may, however, make you believe that you are exempt when you are not.
If you are non-exempt, and are entitled to overtime pay, your employer may never ask you to take less money or to waive your right to overtime compensation. Covered employees may not waive their rights to overtime.
It can be frightening to confront your employer when you believe you are owed money, and are being unfairly treated. You might be worried about repercussions if you complain even though you know you are entitled to fair wages under law. Your employer might demote you, fire you, or mistreat you at work. It is illegal for an employer to retaliate against an employee for complaining or filing a lawsuit. The laws were enacted to protect employees and would be ineffective if employees were afraid to seek what they are rightfully entitled to. Employees can only enforce their workplace rights when they speak up.
If you believe your employer has retaliated against you, be sure to record all dates, times, and actions. It is important to keep track of any mistreatment. Share this information with your lawyer immediately. It could affect the damages you are entitled to in your case.
Statute of Limitations
The FLSA dictates different time limits during which you can file a claim to recover wages and overtime. The period during with you may file a lawsuit is called a statute of limitations. Once the statute of limitations expires, your claim may be lost forever. The specific facts of your case must be looked at in order to determine whether you still have time to file a claim. A successful FLSA plaintiff may recover back wages and unpaid overtime if you prove that the employer violated the FLSA overtime and wage rules. In addition, the court may award “liquidated damages”.. “Liquidated damages are an amount equal to the amount of back pay or overtime you are entitled to. Essentially, you get double the money your employer owes you. If an employer can show that he acted in good faith. However, the court may not award liquidated damages. The court may also award attorney’s fees and other costs associated with the litigation.
Contact Wage and Overtime Attorneys
Contact us if your employer owes you money, ;back pay, overtime or underpaid wages. You are entitled to payment for every hour you work. If you are not getting your fair compensation, let the wage and overtime attorneys at Farris, Riley & Pitt know. We can help you get the money you have rightfully earned.