According to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), every non-exempt employee in the United States must be paid at least one and a half times their normal wage if they work more than eight hours in a day, or forty hours in a week. And yet, employers regularly refuse to pay their employees the wages they have earned, effectively stealing money they are legally entitled to. So how do you know if your employer is stealing your overtime pay, and what should you do if they are?
What You Are Owed For Overtime
Under the FLSA, every employee who is not exempted from the FLSA’s protections is legally entitled to be paid 1.5 times their normal hourly wage whenever they work more than 40 hours a week or eight hours a day. Employees are exempted from being paid “time and a half” for working over if they meet three criteria:
- They are paid on a salary basis.
- They are involved in a management, executive, professional, administrative, or outside sales role.
- And if they make above a certain salary ($684 per week for most roles)
The vast majority of employees in the United States do not fully meet these criteria, and are thus eligible for overtime pay.
How Employers Get Around Paying Overtime
Suffice it to say that employers do not like to pay overtime if they can avoid it, although they like squeezing as much work out of their employees as possible. This leads them to engage in certain business practices that are, at best, legally questionable, and in some cases just plain illegal. These include, but are not limited to:
- Paying employees their normal wage for overtime, instead of time and a half
- Forcing employees to come in early off the clock
- Forcing employees to work after they have clocked out
- Misclassifying employees as managers, administrators, or other exempt roles
- Misclassifying employees as independent contractors
- Forcing employees to work through lunch
- Refusing to count mandatory meetings or training sessions towards time worked
The Consequences of Stealing Overtime Pay
The result of employers refusing to pay the overtime they owe their employees is simple: employees lose out on hundreds or even thousands of dollars every year, while employers gain the benefit of their free or underpaid labor. In addition, employees are forced to work for far longer than they were meant to, increasing the risk of exhaustion, illness, and workplace injuries. Unfortunately, employers often get away with this behavior because their employees do not realize the legal remedies available to them.
What You Should Do if Your Wages Are Stolen
If you belong to a company with a Human Resources department, you can file a report with them. Otherwise, you may need to consider filing a complaint with the Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division, which investigates overtime violations. You should also speak to a lawyer with experience handling wage and hour violations, who can help you pursue justice for the harm that you have suffered.
Steven Mitchell Sack, the Employee’s Lawyer, is a New York employment lawyer with more than 41 years’ experience handling the many aspects of employment law. His new book, “Fired!: Protect Your Rights & FIGHT BACK If You’re Terminated, Laid Off, Downsized, Restructured, Forced to Resign or Quit,” is available in hardback, and contains valuable advice on dealing with employment and labor law issues. To purchase the book, feel free to contact Steven Sack at 917-371-8000 or visit the website at legalstratpub.com. To inquire about a legal matter, please feel free to contact attorney Steven Sack at 917-371-8000 or firstname.lastname@example.org.