Fair Wages and Overtime

Introduction

As an employee, you have the right to be paid a fair wage for your hours worked.  The United States Department of Labor oversees enforcement of these laws, known as the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).  Put simply, you have two rights – the right to be paid minimum wage for your hourly work and the right to be paid overtime at the rate of 1.5 times your normal hourly wage.  If your employer oversees your work and pays you for it hourly, then you are likely covered under the law.  If you are paid a set salary rather than a set hourly wage, then you may or may not be covered depending on the type of job and any employment agreement you signed.

When Do I File a Complaint?

You have two years to file a complaint with the DOL – however, you can only recover damages for a two-year period going back from the date you file your complaint.  Therefore, you can only receive compensation for the last two years of improper payments at the most.

Won’t I Be Punished or Fired for Complaining?

“[It is a violation for any person to] “discharge or in any other manner discriminate against any employee because such employee has filed any complaint or instituted or caused to be instituted any proceeding under or related to this Act, or has testified or is about to testify in any such proceeding, or has served or is about to serve on an industry committee.”  FLSA Sec. 15(a)(3).

The DOL takes retaliation for filing a complaint very seriously.  If your employer takes an action against you because of your FLSA complaint, you can file a retaliation claim against your employer and receive a large number of damages, including reinstatement, back wages, and “liquidated damages” that effectively double the amount of monetary damages you can already obtain.

How Do I File a Complaint?

Complaints are initially filed through the U.S. Department of Labor.  While the initial process is fairly straightforward, I recommend that you hire an attorney before filing your claim.  An attorney can guide you through the many exceptions to the FLSA to ensure that you are a covered employee.  Perhaps most importantly, an attorney can help you go through your records to ensure you have the exact pieces of evidence needed to prove your case, or can help you obtain those critical pieces.  Keep in mind that, unlike many employee protections, there is generally no requirement that your employer intend to deprive you of a fair wage.  Because of this, evidence to prove your case becomes critical and must be presented properly.  Finally, an attorney can then open negotiations with your employer before a complaint is ever filed.  When a case is presented properly at this informal negotiation, the case is often settled because your employer has no interest in taking a case they know they will lose to court.

If you believe you may not have been paid what you are owed for your hard work, contact us today.