Contacting an overtime lawyer comes with many benefits. Here's everything you need to know before making that important phone call.
Proving Illegal Conduct
Employment law varies from state to state, although some laws are upheld at the federal level. For this reason, an overtime lawyer can help determine whether your employer broke the law. To prove that the employer did something illegal, an attorney will review your situation in detail.
Federal law states that you're entitled to overtime pay every time you work more than 40 hours in a workweek. The overtime pay is usually 1.5 times your regular pay rate. But, despite being aware of such laws, some employers might attempt to have you work off the clock to avoid paying overtime rates.
And that's not the only tactic employers use to avoid paying their employees what they're entitled to. We've discussed some of these tactics below.
Tactics Employers Use to Deny Employees Overtime Pay
Some of these tactics include:
The only legal payroll deductions are those required by state or federal law. Examples include federal income tax, Medicare, Social Security, and court-ordered wage garnishments. Other than that, your employer will require your permission to deduct your wages.
Some employers may deliberately fail to keep time records to deny their employees overtime pay. As a general rule, always keep a copy of the hours you've worked, documenting the exact shifts worked. This information could come in handy in the event of a dispute regarding your payroll.
Improper Employee Classification
An exempt employee does not earn overtime pay or qualify for minimum wage. However, such an employee earns a paid salary rather than by the hour. Additionally, their work is usually more executive or professional. As a result, most exempt employees are usually involved in executive, administrative, professional, tech-related, or sales roles.
Some employers may wrongfully and intentionally classify certain employees as exempt employees to deny them overtime pay. Suppose you're a non-exempt employee, meaning you're eligible for overtime pay. In that case, you need to contact an overtime lawyer if your employer refuses to pay you for the extra hours worked.
The same also applies to independent contractors; some are usually not eligible for overtime pay. For this reason, some employers intentionally classify their employees as independent contractors to deny them overtime pay.
Working Off the Clock
This is probably the most common tactic employers use to dock hours off their employee's paychecks. The most unfortunate thing about this tactic is that it could go on for years without suspicion.
Here's how it works.
When a rogue employer realizes that you've already worked 40 hours a particular workweek, they'll request you to complete certain tasks off the clock. For example, if your employer asks you to come in an hour early to respond to emails or help clean up the office before clocking in, that could be a case of working off the clock. If the extra hours' work doesn't reflect on your paycheck as overtime, then it's time to talk to an overtime attorney.
Omitting Time Spent at Work
Did you know that you're entitled to payment for the time you spend at work at your employer's request? This doesn't necessarily mean that you have to be working in order to get paid.
For example, you're entitled to compensation if you arrive at work for employee training. The same also applies if you attend a work-related meeting.
So if your employer asks you to come in an hour early or leave an hour late for training, meetings, or anything related, those extra hours should reflect on your paycheck as overtime hours if you've already worked 40 hours that particular workweek.
Omitting Bonus Pay
If your terms of employment include a bonus when you meet certain requirements, then your employer owes you that agreed amount. However, given many employees don't usually remember such agreements in their contracts, some employers take advantage of the situation to deny them the bonuses they're entitled to.
Waiving FLSA Rights
Despite knowing that they can't waive their employee's rights under the Fair Labor Standards Act, some employers may have their employees sign waivers. This is why it's always important to ensure you understand every document you sign at work.
Remember that one document you signed without reading through the pages? It might be necessary to take a second look at it.
Expert Knowledge of Employment Law
An employment lawyer from a reputable law firm like Morgan & Morgan understands employment laws at the federal and state levels. Given employment laws are complex and vary based on different aspects such as the employment agreement, state of employment, the industry of employment, and so on, the last thing you want is to work with a general personal injury attorney or just any attorney for that matter.
Think about it this way—would you hire a roofing contractor to take care of your landscaping needs? The answer is no, even though they work in almost a similar field. The same applies to an employment attorney; you can count on their experience and knowledge of employment laws to fight for your rights when an employer doesn't pay what they owe you.
Remember, employment laws may seem pretty straightforward on paper, but they're actually very complex. For instance, you'll have to prove that the employer willfully violated your overtime laws. However, the term 'willful violation' could take different dimensions, depending on how it's being interpreted.
Interpreting the Statute of Limitations
There are certain time limits for filing unpaid overtime wages claims. These time limits vary depending on several factors; for example, the State of employment determines the statute of limitations for filing such claims.
The same also applies to the specific claim. For instance, in Florida, you have up to three years to file a claim if the employer willingly violated overtime laws.
Deciding the Type of Lawsuit to File
Overtime lawyers can help determine the right kind of lawsuit against the rogue employer. Sometimes, it may make more sense to file a class-action lawsuit against an employer than a private lawsuit. A class-action lawsuit involves a larger group filing a lawsuit against an individual or entity. For example, if other company employees haven't been paid overtime, filing a class-action lawsuit could make more sense. This is because a class action lawsuit usually holds more weight and comes with more evidence than an individual lawsuit.
Protecting Your Employment Rights
You have the right to raise certain issues against your employer without the fear of being fired, demoted, or punished in any other way. For example, even if your overtime pay claim is unsuccessful, your employer can't retaliate against you.
Federal and FLSA laws protect employees from retaliation when they raise such issues against their employers. Working with an employment attorney ensures that such rights are protected during and after the lawsuit. And if your employer retaliates against you, the attorney can help you file a retaliation claim. Additionally, the court may decide to force the rogue employer to implement certain changes at the workplace to prevent such cases from arising in the future.
Calculating the Settlement
You'll be surprised to find out that your employer actually owes you more than you think. Due to their experience and knowledge of employment law, such an attorney can help calculate the total overtime pay owed. For instance, you may be eligible for double "back pay" damages for unpaid overtime.