Fair Labor Standards Act

Wage & Overtime

Employers who fail to abide by federal and state employment laws may be subject to civil money penalties and can be sued individually or collectively by many, depending on how many employees are impacted.

If you’re a worker who’s been denied overtime pay, underpaid, or been the victim of another type of wage theft, you may be able to file an FLSA claim against your employer to recover your wages and seek additional compensation with the help of an experienced wage and hour attorney.

The History Of FLSA

On June 25, 1938, President Roosevelt signed the Fair Labor Standards Act (popularly known as the Wages and Hours Bill). The law established a minimum wage, a standardized work week, and made it a requirement for employers to pay extra for overtime work.

What Does This Mean For Me?

When the law passed, it guaranteed the following to workers who do not fall under exemptions:

  • A minimum wage
  • A right to “time and a half” for overtime pay for non-exempt workers (see more information below regarding non-exempt vs. exempt workers) once a worker completes 40 hours in one week
  • Protection from retaliation for complaints about wages

Wages must be paid at regular intervals in a pay period. There are a few things it does not guarantee. The FLSA does not cover break periods, sick time, or holidays. It also does not guarantee premium pay for working holidays or the distribution of final wages after employment terminates. While it does indicate when overtime pay is required (generally when an employee works over 40 hours in a week), it is not a cap on the number of hours an employee works.

Although it has its limitations if you are facing issues other than wage and hour challenges you may still have a claim under other laws regarding worker treatment . Since many complaints of employees deal with the mere non-payment of wages, the protections of the FLSA still provide an effective remedy.

The Difference Between Exempt and Nonexempt Employees

  • Salary Level: Under the FLSA, any employees must be paid a salary of at least $684 per week to be considered exempt.  In some states, including New York, this minimum is even higher.
  • Salary Basis: An employee paid on a salary basis is guaranteed a set minimum pay regardless of the hours worked. For example, if you are paid on a salary basis and your salary is $700 a week, your employer must pay you that amount whether you work 20 hours or 45 hours in a week.
  • Duties: These can either be administrative, professional, or executive, as well as high-level services — for instance, a computer engineer who has improved their skill through prolonged studies.

Exempt and Nonexempt Employees

  • Exempt Employees: These employees are paid a set amount regardless of how many hours they have worked in a week. This simply means that exempt employees receive a salary and are not paid hourly as their work is either professional, executive, or administrative.
  • Nonexempt Employees: Nonexempt employees must be paid a minimum of 40 hours plus overtime— typically 1.5 times their regular hourly rate — for any given workweek.  If you are a non-exempt worker paid a salary, rather than hourly, your employer may be permitted to pay you only half-time your regular rate instead of 1.5 times, but only under certain circumstances.

What Are White Collar Exemptions?

Executive Exemptions

  • The primary duty is the management of the enterprise or one of the divisions.
  • Manages the work of two or more employees or an equivalent
  • Has the authority to fire, hire, make recommendations or change the status of an employee.
  • Paid on a salary basis with minimum pay of $684 weekly

Examples include general managers, business owners, CEOs, and vice presidents.

Administrative Exemptions

  • The primary role is non-manual and involves the general running of the business operations.
  • Exercises decision-making on significant matters and can bind the company using contracts such as consultation, advice to management, and long-term plans.
  • They are paid on a salary basis.

Examples include office secretaries and office managers.

Professional Exemptions

  • The primary duty involves advanced knowledge that relies heavily on discretion and judgment.
  • It must be in science or learning whose knowledge is acquired through prolonged study or specialization.
  • They are paid using a salary or a fee and no less than $684 weekly.

Examples include doctors, lawyers, architects, computer scientists, writers, artists, and so on.

How Could An Employer Fail to Pay Overtime?

Some employees avoid paying their employees overtime wages by misclassifying employees as exempt employees or independent contractors. For example, although an employee classified as exempt may have a title of “manager” or some other supervisory title, if they still spend most of their time doing the same work as hourly employees and don’t have actual authority to make important decisions, they may be misclassified as exempt. This can be fairly common with workers in retail and banking, such as assistant managers or department managers. Other tactics employers may use to avoid paying overtime include:

  • Off-the-clock work — Insisting that employees finish uncompleted work before or after clocking out, or shaving time from employee time entries to remove or reduce overtime.
  • Shortchanging hours — Deducting break times lasting 5 to 30 minutes from the number of hours worked when employees are required (by law or the employer) to take regular breaks
  • Overtime approval — Denying an employee overtime wage for not requesting to work overtime

Overtime pay can be a substantial boost to hourly employees who often rely on the additional compensation to pay for life’s basic needs. However, it is not uncommon for hourly employees to be denied overtime pay, which can be devastating to employees who have put in more than forty (40) hours in one workweek. Many employees who are denied overtime pay may not know what steps to take to fight for their rights and assert that their employers are obligated to pay overtime under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).

Standing up to an employer’s unlawful activities takes courage. Employees are sometimes hesitant to complain about unpaid overtime or wages, out of concern that their employer will fire them on the spot – or engage in more subtle forms of retaliation. The federal FLSA has a strong anti-retaliation provision that forbids employers from punishing employees who raise concerns about their wages or overtime pay.
If you have any questions about FLSA retaliation law, unpaid wages, or employment law in general, you can contact the Wage & Hour Practice Group at Outten & Golden for a confidential review of your claim.

Fighting for Overtime Pay Without the Help of an Attorney
Many employees who have a close relationship with their employers may be able to resolve an overtime dispute without the assistance of an attorney. If an employer has mistakenly failed to pay overtime or has mistakenly misclassified an employee and recognizes the error, that employer has an opportunity to correct the issue right away. However, if an employee does not have a close relationship with his/her employer or feels that a discussion of overtime pay will be contentious, discussing the matter with an employment attorney is a good idea to ensure the employer complies with all overtime laws and regulations.

Outten & Golden May Be Able To Help With Your FLSA Wage Claim
If you have been unlawfully denied overtime pay or have been misclassified as an exempt employee, you should consider discussing your situation with an employment lawyer right away. Contact us today for a confidential review of your claim to learn whether there are legal options available for your situation.