Hard economic times often lead corporations and other companies to cut corners in order to keep shareholders and owners happy, often to the detriment of their employees. The Fair Labor Standards Act sets minimum wage requirements for employees in the United States and also sets overtime payment requirements for workers who work more than 40 hours in a given work week. The Act applies to all but a very limited number of employers in the United States.
The Department of Labor has stepped up enforcement of the Act the past few years in an attempt to protect these workers from illegal employment practices on the part of their employers. However, based on the sheer number of lawsuits being filed both by the Department of Labor and employees through private lawsuits, employers still seem to be using the same tactics to force workers to accept less pay than the pay to which they are legally entitled.
Many employers have tried to circumvent the Act by the improper classification of employees as exempt from overtime pay. This has been a source of many lawsuits. Employers will often tell employees they are “salaried” and as such, exempt from overtime pay. Whether or not an employee is exempt from overtime pay is dependent on the actual work they perform as opposed to the title they may be given by an employer or the employer’s statement that they are on salary.
Under the FLSA, employees are entitled to overtime unless they are managers who actually manage and hire and fire employees, administrators who make key decisions, or professionals – such as lawyers and engineers – with advanced degrees. Also exempt are certain information technology workers and sales representatives whose hours cannot be easily tracked.
Further, employees must earn at least $455 a week to be exempt. While all hourly employees are entitled to overtime, salaried workers will also be entitled to overtime if they do not fall under any of the listed exemptions. The rate of overtime to which they will be entitled will be dependent on the facts of each individual case.
Recently, Wal-Mart “agreed” to pay $4.83 million dollars to more than 4,500 of its employees whom it had misclassified as exempt from overtime provisions. Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis issued a statement about Wal-Mart’s agreement that should serve as a warning to each employer covered by the Act: “Misclassification of employees as exempt from FLSA coverage is a costly problem with adverse consequences for employees and corporations,” said the Secretary. “Let this be a signal to other companies that when violations are found, the Labor Department will take appropriate action to ensure that workers receive the wages they have earned.”
As an employee, do not need to wait for the Department of Labor to pick up your cause. You have the right to bring a cause of action under the Fair Labor Standards Act to recover all monies to which you are entitled, as well as reasonable attorneys’ fees in bringing the lawsuit. In certain instances, you may also be entitled to “liquidated” or double damages as well.
Often the complaints of one employee will lead to a “collective” action on the part of all employees who are similarly situated. In other words, if an employer is misclassifying or failing to pay overtime to a group of workers, each worker does not need to bring a separate lawsuit to enforce the Act. We are able to group the similar claims together to bring one action that will protect the whole group, similar to the Wal-Mart case illustrated above.
Our law firm handles many individual and collective actions brought under the Fair Labor Standards Act. We would be glad to discuss the facts of any case to help determine if violations may have occurred. Feel free to contact on of your Tennessee Employment Lawyers today.