According to WageAdvocates.com most workers are unfortunately underpaid for weeks, months or even years having tirelessly worked overtime. Labor laws such as America’s Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) seeks to protect such employees and thus entitle them to a Federal minimum wage as well as fair overtime wage.
FLSA was mainly initiated to safeguard hourly and low-income employees. It further prohibits employers from demanding employees to work more than forty hours in a week unless they’re compensated at the overtime rate. Despite these stipulated rules and regulations, employers still violate their employees’ rights from time to time and deprive them of the money they’ve earned through hard work. It is indeed illegal for employees to work extra hours without getting due pay. The following are some of the most typical overtime violations:
- Classifying workers as independent contractors – Most companies would take advantage of this because FLSA states that independent contractors are not entitled to get paid for overtime. Independent contractors should be referred to only as individuals who work for themselves and not a person who directly works for the organization and receives their payroll checks. Companies also do not take federal and state taxes to independent workers.
- Working employees off the clock – Employees should only work for forty hours a week according to FLSA, and therefore, anything beyond that is considered unorthodox and unethical. Employers operating in such an environment are taking advantage of employees. In the case of an accident, a worker cannot write an incident report, and neither is the company liable to pay for injuries sustained since the employee was not on the clock and thus the employer can easily dispute the claim.
- Avoid paying both salaried and field workers overtime – Most employers do not keep their end of the bargain when it comes to the field and salaried workers. Instead of paying their field workers who are always in the field on an hourly basis, they pay them a straight salary. Field workers should be entitled to overtime pay if they exceed the maximum working hours in a week. Employers also take advantage of salaried employees because they don’t have to clock in or clock out.
- Reclassifying workers from exempt to nonexempt – Some employers would move employees from one classification to the other i.e. demotion to avoid paying overtime. This process is illegal and risky as it can cost employers a fortune if it backfires.
- Perceiving assistant managers as salaried employees – Most workers may carry the title ‘assistant manager’ but they’re actually not, as this is a setup. An assistant manager is typically required to meet three requirements so as to be classified as an exempt employee. Salaried assistant managers who do not meet qualifications for an “executive exemption” should be entitled to an overtime pay.
Employees Combating Overtime Violations
As an employee who is at risk of being denied overtime dues, you can protect yourself via the following ways;
- Union membership – Unions seek to safeguard the rights of employees from unfair job practices. Most companies, however, dislike unions because they bring division at the workplace, but the primary reason is that they fight for the rights of workers. Being a member of a union means all your complaints will be duly noted, and they’ll be easily addressed.
- Be knowledgeable on federal law policies – The rights of many workers get violated simply because of negligence and ignorance otherwise; they would legally claim their dues. If it means you have to get educated on the federal law policies or have extensive knowledge in employment and labor laws that apply to your job, then this is what you should do. It’s critical for you to identify your classification status so that you report any errors you find to the human resource department. If the H.R department does not respond to your issue, then you can contact the department of labor in your county or state by yourself.
- Pursue legal representation – Some companies or employers insist on not paying for extra hours even when they know they ought to. When it comes to federal workers, the law is very clear on matters to do with overtime rates so when employers break the law, then they ought to face the full force of the law.
[The author, Tim Becker, is a Partner at Minneapolis’ Johnson // Becker PLLC, and lead sponsor of WageAdvocates.com. He is committed to providing clients effective, aggressive legal representation, and has prosecuted numerous individual FLSA violation claims.]