Wage and hour laws determine and enforce the minimum standards for both minimum wage and overtime hours. These categories fall under the FLSA. The Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”) governs the various aspects of employment at the federal level. First, it is useful to understand the FLSA before specifically discussing wage and hour laws.

In addition to governing wage and hour laws, the FLSA addresses record keeping and employing youth in both the private and public sectors. Employees who are covered by the Act are referred to as being non-exempt. These employees are entitled to receive the federal minimum wage, the absolute lowest hourly rate that employers can legally pay their employees. Additionally, non-exempt employees receive 1.5 times their regular hourly rate for every hour worked that exceeds forty hours in one workweek.

The FLSA also addresses child labor laws by providing protections for minors between the ages of 14 and 17 years old. An example of such protections would be restricted maximum work hours, and an extensive list of occupations ruled too treacherous to be performed by child labor.

  • To recap, the FLSA requires the following of employers:
  • Pay their workers at least federal minimum wage;
  • Pay their workers overtime wages when applicable;
  • Adhere to child labor standards; and
  • Maintain correct records regarding hours, wages, etc.

Failure to adhere to wage and hour laws can result in legal penalties or expose the violator to a civil lawsuit from affected workers. It is necessary to state that employers must also adhere to state wage and hour laws and those set by the FLSA.

What Are Some Examples of Common Lawsuits Associated With Wage and Hour Laws?

Legal claims associated with wage and hour disputes are typically complex, involving more than just one type of legal problem. Many lawsuits include disputes regarding the amount of wages an employee has earned or the number of hours they have worked.

Some examples of the most commonly occurring conflicts include those associated with:

  • Overtime pay and hours;
  • Paid vacation or medical leave;
  • Pregnancy leave;
  • Wrongful termination, such as failing to pay an employee their wages in connection with termination;
  • Deliberate violations, such as harassment or discrimination; and
  • Wage garnishment, which is often involved with other legal conflicts such as child support.
  • Wage and hour lawsuits can also be referred to as wage and salary claims.

Although it is far less ordinary, there are some wage and hour lawsuits involving an employee abusing work procedures to claim FLSA benefits that they are not entitled to. Again, this is relatively infrequent compared to more common disputes where an employer fails to pay their employees minimum wage or overtime.

To expand on what was previously mentioned, common disputes associated with wage and hour lawsuits include:

  • Minimum Wage: Lawsuits associated with minimum wage disputes always happen when an employer fails to pay an employee the federal minimum wage. As previously discussed, the federal minimum wage is the lowest amount an employer can legally pay workers. Most states adhere to this federal minimum; nevertheless, some states provide a higher minimum wage, in which case qualified workers of those states are to receive the state minimum wage;
  • Exempt Employees: Some employees may be exempt from FLSA regulations and standards. This means that their employer does not need to adhere to overtime pay laws because of their work or some other factor. This becomes an issue when employers misclassify workers, whether deliberately or accidentally. Wrongly classifying workers in an attempt to avoid paying them overtime wages is illegal;
  • Job Duties: Many conflicts occur when there is a discrepancy between an employee’s job title and the actual duties. Generally speaking, FLSA provisions are based on the actual tasks that an employee performs instead of their job description or title. As such, exemptions are also based on responsibilities and not titles. It is common for employers to mistakenly base an employee’s FLSA status on their job description and not on the actual job duties;
  • Working “Off the Clock”: Because not every company operates according to a forty-hour workweek, FLSA violations can emerge with scheduling and overtime rates. An example of this would be how most employers fail to include business meetings as part of the workday; and
  • Wage Withholding: An employer may wrongfully withhold wages from an employee for many reasons. Some of the most common reasons are discrimination and retaliation. It is essential to mention that for a legal claim to be made, the reason why the wages were being withheld must be illegal, such as in the examples above.

What Is Wage & Hour Class Action Mediation?

A wage & hour dispute happens when employees have had their wages withheld or a dispute over the calculation of hours they have worked. It may also involve disagreements over eligibility for specific work hours or benefits, such as overtime pay.

In some circumstances, large groups of workers may be affected by a single work policy or by the judgment of a single supervisor.

In such circumstances, the workers may decide to file the claim as a class-action lawsuit if they have all been similarly affected. This can help to make the process go faster and more efficiently.

Taking this further, some class action claims may be diverted from litigation into the mediation process. This is where a third-party mediator moderates between the class of workers and the employer to help them reach a settlement or other legal remedy. This can deliver certain benefits for both the class of plaintiffs and the defendant employer.

What Are Some Advantages of Wage & Hour Class Action Mediation?

Mediation can be helpful, even in a large-scale legal claim like a class action wage/hour controversy. For example, mediation:

  • Still addresses the defendant’s need to deter or prevent future claims
  • Provides workers with more immediate relief for their claims
  • Permits both sides to avoid lengthy and expensive lawsuits
  • Can deliver more precise relief for plaintiffs since they can arrange terms according to their needs

On the other hand, mediation might not be able to address specific individual requests. These may need to be processed in a different legal proceeding. Also, mediation may not be practical in all cases, especially where the sides cannot reach a mutual agreement on the dispute.

What If Mediation Is Not Successful?

If mediation is not successful, the parties may need to continue litigation. This can involve more examinations concerning the conclusions and guidelines of the employer and their management staff. In some circumstances, this can result in a monetary damages award for the class of plaintiffs. For example, if the court discovers that the company withheld wages without a legal basis, they may be required to reimburse the group of workers according to their qualifying rates.

Should I Hire a Lawyer for Help with Wage and Hour Disputes?

Wage/hour claims can often involve significant legal problems that affect large groups of workers. You may wish to hire an employment lawyer if you need legal representation for a wage and hour claim. Your lawyer can provide you with guidance and representation during the process. If you need to be involved in mediation, your attorney can be present to help with negotiations and other matters. If the case is going to court, your lawyer can continue to help you with legal research and advice on the case.