Employees considering a job offer often focus on the salary (cash) that the employer will pay them. Employers, on the other hand, consider compensation more broadly, including such things as salary, traditional benefits like health and insurance coverage, pension, holiday pay, sick leave, and vacation, and other fringe benefits like gym access, moving expense reimbursement or carpooling service. These are just some of the standard extras that employees have come to expect but there may be additional items as well based on the nature of your work.
For example, company executives may be offered high stock options or bonus incentives as part of their compensation packages. Because of the broader compensation package that employers offer, they may justify paying a lower salary for a job.
Some benefits are required by law and some are negotiated between employer and employee. It is important that you understand your compensation package fully so that you can identify when an employer is denying you compensation to which you are entitled.
What are Some Issues that Arise Because of Compensation?
Conflicts inevitably arise between employer and employee relating to compensation, particularly salary and benefits. Those issues often concern nonpayment or underpayment for overtime work, denial of benefits, or rejection of employee requests for time-off from work for medical issues. Let’s take a closer look at how some of these issues develop.
Wage and Overtime Work: The Fair Labor Standards Act provides that certain categories of employees are entitled to wages above their regular rate for working over the traditional number of hours in their normal work week (40 hours). These additional hours are considered overtime and the employee is entitled to extra wages not less than time and a half of their regular pay rate.
For example, a qualified employee is asked to perform additional work totaling five hours above their normal work week of forty hours. Because they have worked forty-five hours instead of forty hours, they are entitled to overtime wages at 1.5 times their normal hourly rate of $20. So the employee will be paid $20 per hour for the first forty hours and $30 per hour for the five hours that count as overtime.
Employers have a clear mandate on what they must pay for overtime and when they must pay for overtime. Nonetheless, disputes arise when employers try to avoid paying the overtime wages to which the employee is entitled. This is a violation of the FLSA and the employer can be penalized for noncompliance.
Family and Medical Leave Act: In a nutshell, the federal FMLA protects the jobs of eligible employees working for covered employers when they take qualified medical or family leave. The employee is entitled to take the leave and the employer cannot use the employee’s absence against the employee. As well, while on leave, the employer must continue group health coverage for the employee.
Employers can violate the FMLA rights of their employees if they:
- Fire, reprimand or discriminate against the employee;
- Retaliate against the employee;
- Fail to notify the employee of their FMLA rights;
- Unlawfully share confidential medical information;
- Eliminate their health benefits; and/or
- Force them to continue to work even though they are on leave.
An employee whose FMLA rights have been violated may file a complaint against the employer. The penalties for violating the FMLA are serious for the employer and may include payment of lost wages and benefits, and equitable relief, such as reinstatement to the same or a higher position.
Entitlement To Benefits: Because some benefits are negotiated for and some are required under law, the issues that arise may be varied. For example, a pregnant woman is denied maternity leave by her employer.
The employer may have just violated the FMLA. In another example, an executive has been denied stock in the company even though the company’s employment contract entitles the executive to receive such stock. The executive may sue the company under the employment contract.
In another example, you are a full time employee who was injured while performing your job-related duties at a construction site. You suffered serious back injuries as a result and cannot continue to do your job.
Your employer has told you that you were injured while performing unauthorized work, so the accident was your personal fault. Moreover, the employer refuses to provide you with the proper insurance claims forms to allow you to file for workers’ compensation. Worker’s compensation is state-mandated insurance which may be available to you notwithstanding your employer’s statements or actions to the contrary.
Do I Need an Employment Lawyer for Disputes Over Benefits with My Employer?
Despite the best of intentions between employers and employees, disputes will arise. If you are an employee who believes your employer has failed to provide you with overtime wages to which you are entitled, has discriminated against you because you have taken a FMLA leave, or has violated other laws, you should consider consulting an employment attorney.