Have you put in your time at work but feel you haven’t been properly paid? If so, take the following test:
- Are you actively employed by the company that you believe owes you wages or overtime?
- Does your employer a) operate a commercial enterprise, or b) produce goods with annual gross sales of at least $500,000?
- Do you perform your job in the United States?
If the answer to all of these threshold questions is “yes,” you may be entitled to compensation under the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”), a law enacted by Congress in 1938. Not all compensation is treated the same – here’s an overview of the two primary components:
Minimum Wage Requirements: Currently, the federal minimum wage is $7.25 per hour, and Michigan’s minimum hourly wage is $7.40. Under the FLSA, you must be paid at least that amount for each hour you work. Deductions that reduce the amount paid for the hours worked below the minimum wage are prohibited, with the exception of reasonable costs for “board, lodging or other facilities.” This can be tricky – for example, the employer may deduct non-business meals, housing for other than business purposes, and fuel for the employee’s personal use. Deductions for union dues, insurance premiums, or charitable contributions are also permitted.
Overtime Pay Requirements: For employees covered under the FLSA, employers must pay 1.5 times the regular hourly wage for each hour or part of an hour beyond the 40-hour mark (not including vacation, holidays, sick days, personal days, and other unworked time). Despite common misconceptions, even when the employee draws a salary instead of punching an hourly timecard, the employer may be obligated to pay overtime.
In either case, once you prove that your employer violated the FLSA, you may be entitled to lost or unpaid compensation, liquidated (double) damages, attorney fees and costs. Additionally, know that pursuing your own claim under the FLSA can help other workers, too, by means of a “collective action.” When you bring a case under the FLSA, the court can then alert other similarly situated employees whose rights may have been violated, allowing them to opt into the lawsuit.
If you are hesitant to come forward for fear that your employer will discipline or terminate you, you should take comfort in the fact that the FLSA contains an anti-retaliation provision. This provision provides that, should an employer retaliate against an employee for making a claim for lost or unpaid compensation, the employee has an additional claim for damages under the FLSA. This is a powerful deterrent for most companies who would otherwise retaliate against their employees in response to an FLSA claim.
Finally, recent FLSA settlements and judgments demonstrate that wage and hour issues are a pervasive problem. Some recent examples: a federal district court judge in Michigan approved a $11.3 million settlement over claims that Déjà vu gentleman’s clubs denied minimum wage to some 35,000 employees; a California State judge approved of a $35 million settlement in a claim that software giant Oracle denied overtime to some 1,700 employees; and a federal district court in New York granted preliminary approval to a $99 million proposed settlement of a nationwide wage & hour class action against Novartis Pharmaceuticals.
If you believe you are owed unpaid minimum wages or overtime, or would like to know if your occupation is covered under the law, we would be happy to talk to you and help you determine your rights.