Unpaid Wages, Overtime, & Minimum Wage

Minimum wage and overtime violations are much more commonplace than most people think. Unfortunately, as is too often the case, many employees never learn that they are being denied hundreds or thousands of dollars in unpaid wages. Most of these claims arise under the Fair Labor Standards Act, or the “FLSA.”

How Does the FLSA Work?

The FLSA protects covered South Florida employees in three major ways. An employer must pay their covered employees:

  • For all of their time spent working;
  • For overtime (one and a half times pay) for all hours worked beyond 40 hours a week; and
  • At least minimum wage ($8.05 per hour, or $5.03 per hour for tipped employees).

Common FLSA Violations

While most employers and employees know these basic rules, many employees are still denied the fair wages and overtime they deserve. Let’s look at some of the more common wage, hour, and overtime violations.

“You Don’t Get Overtime.”  Many employers will tell certain workers that their job is not eligible for, or exempt from, overtime pay. Many times, this is simply not true. Unless you belong to one of several narrowly defined types of employees, you are entitled to be paid one and a half times your regular pay for all hours worked over 40 hours per week. What’s most important is the type of work you’re doing. Many employers incorrectly classify their workers, denying them overtime pay to which they are entitled.

Employers will also tell their workers that they’re not entitled to overtime pay because (1) “You’re a salaried employee;” (2) “You’re a manager;” (3) “You’re paid by commission;” (4) “You’re a salesperson;” (5) “You’re paid in tips;” just to name a few of the more common reasons. In many of these situations, the employer is simply wrong.

Another way in which employers deny their employees overtime pay is by saying “We can’t afford to pay overtime;” “We don’t pay overtime;” or “We don’t allow overtime.” If an employee actually does have to work over 40 hours in a week, these employers will usually offer the employee “comp time” by moving the overtime hours to another week so it will not have to pay time and a half. This is not permissible under the FLSA.

“We Don’t Pay for That.”  With a few very limited exceptions, employers must pay employees for all of the time they spend working. Many employers will ask employees to come in early or stay late, usually for prep time before work begins or to complete routine tasks at the end of the day, but won’t pay for that time. Similarly, where employees have to report to a central office before traveling to or from another work location, employers will improperly refuse to pay for the travel time. The same goes for time spent working outside of normal business hours, working outside of the office, attending meetings, or on-call/standby time; if you’re working, you’re entitled to be paid for your time.

“You Must Take a Lunch.”  This is a tricky one. Most full time employees work 8.5 or 9 hours a day (8 a.m. to 5 p.m. or some variation), with a 30 or 60 minute lunch. If an employee has to work during any portion of their lunch, they must be compensated for the time. Many employers will simply deduct the 30 or 60 minute lunch automatically from the schedule, even if the employee didn’t take lunch, or had to work for a portion of it. Not only does that unfairly deny an employee their normal pay, but in many cases will also deny the employee overtime pay.

“Tipped Employees Don’t Make Minimum Wage.”  Employees who work off tips are still required to be paid at least the minimum wage. If an employee’s tips and hourly pay for a given week result in less than minimum wage, an employer must pay the employee a “tip credit” to ensure a minimum wage. And don’t forget; even tipped employees are also entitled to compensation for all of their hours worked and overtime pay on their hourly wages. Many employers will improperly deny tipped employees for time spent prepping for open or cleaning up after close.

These are just a few of the more common FLSA violations. Contact us to determine if your employer is not paying you what you are owed. Nobody should work for free.