Wage and Hour Laws
What are “Wage and Hour Laws”?
Wage and hour laws govern the basic standards for minimum wages and overtime pay in the workplace. The main wage and hour law is the Fair Labor Standards Act, or FLSA. Among other things, the Act covers these main issues:
- Minimum Wage: FLSA sets standards for the prevailing wage amounts paid to employees (this is the “wage” part of the phrase “Wage and Hour”)
- Overtime Pay: FLSA governs when overtime should be paid, and which employees are eligible to receive overtime pay (this is the “Hour” part of the phrase “Wage and Hour”)
- Child Labor Protection: The Act also has provisions protecting children from child labor
Employers are required to abide by the rules set out in the Fair Labor Standards Act. In addition to following FLSA standards, employers must keep accurate records with regards to wages, hours, and other details related to their business. Failing to do so can result in legal consequences, and could possibly subject them to a wage and hour lawsuit filed by an employee or group of employees.
What are Some Common Lawsuits Involving Wage and Hour Claims?
Wage and hour claims are among the most common types of employment lawsuits, along with disability and discrimination claims. Wage and hour disputes typically involve an employer failing to pay employees minimum wage or overtime pay according to FLSA.
In less common cases, an employee may abuse work procedures and claim FLSA benefits that they aren’t entitled to. In general, however, most wage and hour law claims involve complaints by employees regarding their employers.
Some common issues involved in wage and hour lawsuits include:
- Exemption: Certain categories of employees are “exempt” from overtime pay laws, meaning that they aren’t entitled to overtime pay. Some employers make the mistake of classifying some or all of their employees as exempt, when they really aren’t. Or, employees may knowingly classify non-exempt employees as exempt in order to avoid paying them more, which is illegal
- Job Title vs. Actual Duties Performed: Most FLSA provisions are based on the actual duties that the employee performs, rather than their job descriptions (for example, exemptions are based on duties performed, not job titles). A common mistake for employers is to base the employee’s FLSA status on their job title rather than their duties
- Working “Off the Clock”: FLSA violations can arise because not all companies operate according to a strict, 40-hour work week. Many businesses and employees are under “alternative weeks” (i.e., 4 day work weeks, 10 hour days, etc.). Also, some employers don’t include business meetings as part of the “work day”. Thus, it’s important for employers to consider the structure of employee work schedules when dealing with wage and hour claims
Finally, a great number of wage and hour claims also involve withholding of wages, regardless of minimum wage or overtime standards. These are claims where an employee wrongfully withholds payments to an employee for illegal reasons (such as discrimination, or in retaliation against the employee).
What if I Need to File a Wage and Hour Claim?
If you have a wage and hour dispute, you’ll probably need to file a claim first with the Wage-Hour Division of the U.S. Department of Labor. The Wage-Hour division will then launch an investigation to determine if any your workplace employment practices are in violation of FLSA. If a violation is found, they may enforce penalties against the employer, and may require them to adjust their labor policies.
If the Department of Labor is unable to provide you with the appropriate remedy, you may also be able to file a private civil lawsuit against your employer. You may be entitled to receive a damages award for losses such as back pay.
Note that employers are prohibited by law from firing an employee who makes a report regarding wage and hour disputes in the workplace.
Do I Need a Lawyer for Wage and Hour Claims?
Filing a wage and hour claim requires much documentation and can sometimes be very complex. You may need the assistance of an employment lawyer to help file a claim with the Wage-Hour Division in your area. A qualified employment attorney can help you obtain legal relief, and can represent you in court if a lawsuit arises.
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Last Modified: 03-28-2012 03:15 PM PDT
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