Worker & Employee Rights

A federal law known as the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) establishes overtime, minimum wage and other employment standards for most employees. Several states have also enacted laws to enhance the protections provided by this federal statute. These laws set strict requirements regarding who should and shouldn’t receive overtime pay, the rate at which overtime must be paid, the records employers must keep on file regarding their employees’ pay and hours worked, and what exactly counts as compensable “work time.”

Although these laws were established to prevent wage and hour abuse, some companies continue to break the law – either intentionally or unknowingly. If you were cheated out of overtime pay, the attorneys at Morgan & Morgan may be able to help you sue your employer. To learn more about your rights and to find out if you have a case, contact us today. Our lawyers have years of experience handling wage and hour lawsuits and may be able to help you recover your unpaid overtime wages.

What Do I Need to Know About Federal Labor Laws?

You’re most likely entitled to overtime pay. Though there are some exceptions, in most cases, your employer is required to pay you overtime. The threshold for overtime pay is 40 hours per week. Some states, however, have separate labor laws that require overtime pay for employees who work more than a certain number of hours in a single day. California, for example, requires employers to pay overtime for any hours worked in excess of 8 hours in a single day.

You can be forced to work overtime. In most cases, you can be required to work mandatory overtime – but your employer still has to pay you overtime if you’re a non-exempt employee. Some states have separate laws that restrict the number of overtime hours you can be required to work. Other states prohibit mandatory overtime in certain occupations or as a means of overcoming staffing problems (i.e., requiring employees to work overtime rather than hiring additional workers). Massachusetts, for example, does not allow nurses to work forced overtime.

You are entitled to be paid for all work-related activities. You must be paid for all time spent working for the benefit of your employer. This includes time spent checking e-mails from home, attending meetings and training sessions, booting up computers and equipment, and changing into protective clothing, among other things. When you are not paid for all time spent working, your hours are not being properly recorded. Therefore, you could be working overtime without getting paid for it.

You have the right to alert others about suspected labor law violations. You can alert your employer and other employees about unpaid overtime concerns and encourage others to join you in taking legal action to recover unpaid wages.

You have the right to sue over retaliation stemming from wage disputes or lawsuits. It is illegal for your employer to retaliate against you for inquiring about or taking legal action under wage and hour laws. Workers who were fired, demoted, given undesirable shifts, or received bad reviews that affected their employment simply because they exercised their legal rights may have grounds for a lawsuit.

If you’re a tipped employee, you are entitled to minimum wage makeup. Tipped employees, including servers, bussers and bartenders, can be paid less than the minimum wage as long as the sum of their tips and their hourly wages (federally, the tipped minimum wage is $2.13 per hour) is equal to the regular minimum wage. If not, employers must make up the difference.

You can only pool your tips with other tipped employees. Tipped employees can “pool” their tips together and equally divide them amongst themselves. Non-tipped employees, including chefs and managers, cannot collect any money from a tip pool.

Common Overtime Scams

“I’m refusing you overtime pay because you didn’t ask for permission first.” An employer cannot refuse to pay overtime simply because the worker didn’t get permission. If the employer knew or had reason to know that an employee was working overtime, they must pay him or her for it.

“You aren’t owed overtime because you’re a part-time employee.” Employers can’t deny overtime to part-time workers who work more than 40 hours in a week simply because they aren’t considered by the company to be regular, full-time workers. Job duties and how workers are paid determine whether someone is entitled to overtime pay – not whether they are a full-time or part-time worker.

“You’re exempt – so I don’t owe you overtime.” Some employees are “exempt” from the FLSA, meaning that they’re not required to be paid overtime when they work more than 40 hours in a week. To save money, some employers may classify workers as “exempt” even when they should be receiving overtime pay. For instance, a company may promote a cashier to assistant manager without changing his or her job duties; however, job duties – not titles – determine whether the worker is eligible for overtime pay. Just because an employer says an employee is exempt from overtime pay doesn’t mean that he or she is. Workers must meet the specific criteria of an “exempt” employee to be legally denied overtime pay.

“Your ‘per diem’ payments don’t count toward your wages.” Employees who regularly travel for work may be paid additional “per diem” payments as a daily allowance or reimbursement for certain expenses, such as meals and lodging. If employees are paid set “per diem” payments, even when they don’t incur those expenses, they must be included when calculating their regular pay and overtime rates. If “per diem” payments are not taken into account when calculating these rates, the worker may be getting cheated out of proper overtime pay.

“I’ll just give you comp time instead.” Rather than paying employees overtime, some employers may offer “comp” time for any overtime hours worked, which employees can use for vacation or sick days. Only government entities can legally provide “comp” time instead of overtime pay.

If your employer won’t pay you overtime, you may be able to file a lawsuit. To see if you have a case, contact Morgan & Morgan today.


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