Unpaid Wage and Overtime Attorneys
You work hard, and you deserve to be paid honestly for the time you put in. But employers sometimes try to wrongfully deny employees their rightfully earned compensation. It is called wage theft – and it is illegal. When unscrupulous employers rob workers of wages and overtime, they threaten the livelihoods of employees and their families.
The experienced attorneys at Sommers Schwartz are well-versed in employment law. We know the ways employers violate federal and state laws to avoid paying their employees. Our lawyers are well-respected by peers and clients alike, and our team is dedicated to protecting the rights of workers in Michigan and across the United States.
The law gives you the right to receive fair wages for your work. If an employer has unlawfully withheld your compensation, the attorneys in Sommers Schwartz’s Wage and Hour Litigation Group are ready to help.
The Fair Labor Standards Act
State and federal laws establish minimum wage and overtime guidelines. At the federal level, the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), enacted in 1938, established the right to a minimum hourly and overtime wages for all “non-exempt” workers and also instituted child labor protections and payroll recordkeeping requirements.
The current federal minimum wage is $7.25 per hour, but states may set their own minimum wage requirements, as long as they exceed the federal amount. In Michigan, the Workforce Opportunity Wage Act set the minimum wage at $9.65 per hour beginning on January 1, 2020.
The FLSA and state labor laws also entitle non-exempt workers to overtime pay of at least one-and-one-half times their standard hourly rate when they work more than 40 hours per workweek. A workweek is any regularly occurring and fixed period of 168 hours, or seven consecutive 24-hour periods.
The FLSA also expressly prohibits an employer from taking any sort of retaliatory action against an employee seeking to enforce their rights under the Act. If an employer retaliates against an employee for exercising their FLSA rights, the employer will be responsible for paying all of the employee’s lost wages, costs, and attorney fees.
Wage and Hour Violations
There are common methods employers may use to pay employees less than what they are owed. These include:
- Paying less than the minimum wage
- Paying workers for fewer than the total number of hours worked
- Failing to compensate workers for overtime hours at one- and one-half times their regular hourly rate
- Failing to include commissions, non-discretionary bonuses, and other incentive pay in the calculation of the employee’s overtime rate
- Misclassifying employees as exempt or independent contractors
- Requiring employees to work “off the clock” without pay
- Making employees set up or prepare for work, dress in required gear and equipment, or clean up without pay
- Interrupting or cutting short meal and rest breaks to force employees to work
- Keeping inaccurate pay records
- Withholding pay as punishment or for poor performance
- Taking improper deductions from employee pay
- Wrongly charging employees for mandatory uniforms and equipment, store losses, and register shortages
- Withholding tips from workers
- Forcing tipped workers to share tips with other employees who do not typically receive tips
- Other industry-specific abuses and suspect business practices
If an employer violated wage or hour laws and failed to pay your due wages, you may be entitled to compensation and other damages.
Tipped Workers and Other Exceptions to Wage and Hour Laws
Servers and other workers who rely on tips for income are subject to special wage and overtime provisions. They must still be paid the lawful minimum wage, but employers may apply a “tip credit” to offset their minimum wage obligations. This allows an employer to pay a lower hourly rate if the employee’s tips make up the difference between the minimum wage. The federal minimum wage for tipped employees is $2.13 and $3.67 in Michigan, quite a bit less than the regular rates of $7.25 per hour and $9.65 respectively, which makes tipped workers reliance on customers’ gratuities.
Teenage workers are also at risk for wage abuse. The law allows young people between the ages of 16-17 to be paid 85 percent of the minimum wage. They also can be paid a training wage of $4.25 for the first 90 days of employment. Some employers, however, cheat teenage employees by paying them less than the reduced rate.
Other groups who can legally be paid less than minimum wage include learners, apprentices, and individuals who cannot meet standard production speeds or outputs due to disabilities or other circumstances. Even if some groups are subject to other wage guidelines, it does not make them immune to wage and overtime violations – they may even be more susceptible to wage theft.
Industries Frequently Affected by Wage and Hour Violations
Although anyone can be a victim of wage theft or an unlawful denial of overtime pay, workers in some industries are more vulnerable than others. These include:
- Nurses and healthcare aides
- Pizza and food delivery drivers
- Food processing workers
- Roadside assistance technicians
- Call center agents and representatives
- Sales representatives
- Restaurant and hotel servers and bartenders
- Oil and gas field workers
- Retail employees
- Disaster relief workers
- Drivers of small vehicles (weighing less than 10,000 lbs.)
- IT workers
- Service technicians
- Exotic dancers
Class Action Wage Lawsuits
Often, an employer engages in an unlawful pay practice that violates the rights of several employees. When many similarly situated workers are mistreated in the same way, pursuing their rights in a class action or collective action is appropriate.
Class actions are especially useful for bringing litigation on behalf of employees wronged by large and powerful companies. Those companies frequently have a team of lawyers defending them from wage and hour claims, and an individual lawsuit by a single worker could drag on for years and at great expense. In class actions, all of the plaintiffs are represented by the same lawyers, making it not only economical but also often resulting in a speedier resolution.
Successfully coordinating a class action lawsuit requires a firm with a knowledgeable team, specialized skills, and extensive resources. Sommers Schwartz is that firm. Our attorneys have fought and won wage and overtime cases of all sizes, including lawsuits involving tens of thousands of plaintiffs.
Contact an Accomplished Wage and Overtime Attorney
An experienced wage and overtime attorney will help you navigate the complicated process of pursuing legal action against your employer. They will make sure your rights are preserved and will protect you from retaliation.
The lawyers at Sommers Schwartz hold employers accountable for violating the rights of their workers. To speak with a Sommers Schwartz attorney about your case and determine the best move forward, call 866.614.4247 for a free consultation.