The Fair Labor Standards Act, or FLSA, is in place to set the standards for employee wages, hours, and overtime pay. The FLSA states that employers are required to compensate their employees with a minimum wage, and overtime wages when an employee works more than forty hours in one work week.
This applies to all employees of “enterprises” as defined by the FLSA, including:
- Federal, state, or local government agencies;
- Hospitals or institutions that are engaged in the care of the sick, elderly, or mentally ill;
- Preschools, elementary or secondary schools, higher learning institutions, or schools for disabled or gifted children; and
- Companies with annual sales or receipts of $500,000 or more.
Employees of companies that are not considered to be enterprises by the FLSA may still be protected by the Act. Some common examples of this include employees:
- In the communications and transportation industries;
- Who regularly use mail, telephone, or electronic communication for interstate communication;
- Who handle, ship, or receive commercial goods;
- Who regularly travel between states for work; and
- Working as domestic service workers, such as day workers, housekeepers, etc who are subject to certain wage and hour requirements.
Although each state has their own labor laws and standards, the FLSA is universal and must be adhered to. There are several ways your employer might violate the wage and hour laws of the state in which you work; this could include:
- Failing to pay you your agreed upon salary or hourly wages, which is a breach of employment contract;
- Failing or refusing to pay you at all;
- Not paying you at the agreed upon time, such as biweekly, monthly, etc.;
- Failing to pay you your vacation pay or sick pay;
- Unpaid overtime hours;
- Failing to reimburse you for business expenses that would otherwise be reimbursed;
- Failing to cover your maternity leave if it would otherwise be covered; or
- Wage garnishment.
Wage and hour claims are often complex, and might involve more than one type of legal issue. This is the most common type of employment lawsuit, and typically involve an employer failing to pay their employees state mandated minimum wage or overtime.
Your first course of action should be to speak with your employer in order to ascertain whether they have a reasonable explanation for failing to pay you. This could be due to something such as a clerical error, or a bank error. If it seems that this is not the case, and that your employer does not intend to pay you the money you are owed, you will need to contact your state’s agency that deals with wage and hour requirements. Additionally, you could file a claim with the Wage and Hour Division (“WHD”) of the U.S. Department of Labor.
The WHD will likely conduct an investigation to determine whether there are any FLSA violations. If a violation is found, they may enforce penalties against your employer. These penalties could include a demand that the employer adjusts their labor policies. If the Department of Labor is unable to provide you with an appropriate remedy, you may then file a civil lawsuit against your employer. By doing so, you may be entitled to receive a damages award for losses, such as back pay. It is important to note that by law employers are prohibited from firing an employee out of retaliation for their reporting of wage and hour disputes in the workplace.
In order to prove a wage and hour dispute, you will need to provide some documentation that will be analyzed. Some examples of adequate documentation and statements include:
- Pay stubs;
- Work logs, such as an input of clocking in and out;
- Tax documents;
- Receipts; and
- Statements from other coworkers who have similar experiences.
The FLSA provides some different remedies you may be awarded in order to recover the wages that are owed to you. If you are successful in a wage and hour claim against your employer, you may:
- Recover all unpaid wages for hours you worked;
- Recover any unpaid overtime wages;
- Receive punitive damages, or penalty damages; and
- Have your attorney’s fees and court costs covered by the defendant.
Some other remedies could include:
- Losses related to your claim, such as lost profits on a deal;
- Requiring your employer to change their payment and hour requirements;
- Investigations into the company’s overall recordkeeping practices;
- Firing any responsible supervisors or managers; or
- Reinstating the worker back to their previous position, if they were terminated in connection with the dispute.
You should consult with a well qualified and knowledgeable employment law attorney if your employer is refusing to pay you the wages or overtime you have earned. An experienced employment law attorney can help you understand your state’s specific wage and hour laws, as well as assist in filing a claim with WHD or your state’s labor board. They can also ensure that you are able to collect any remedies available to you.
As can be seen, taking action on an unpaid wages claim requires documentation. Once again, an experienced employment law attorney can help you gather all of the necessary documentation to support your claim, in order to ensure you receive the best possible remedy.