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Wage and Hour Claims

Wage and Hour ClaimsGetting paid for the work you’ve performed should be the easy part of working. Unfortunately, that’s not always the case. From frustrated workers who are being cheated out of the money they deserve, the wage and hour claims attorneys at Console & Associates, P.C. commonly hear questions like “What if my boss doesn’t pay me for my hours worked?” and “Can I sue my employer for not paying me correctly?”

Under federal law, as well as the labor laws that apply in your state, employers who believe they aren’t being paid properly have a legal right to pursue compensation in the form of back wages and other monetary damages. Our attorneys can help you get the full amount of money you deserve for a wage and hour claim. Contact our attorneys now for a free consultation.

What Are Wage, Hour and Overtime Claims?

What is a wage and hour claim? In the legal industry, we define wage and hour claims as disputes between employees and employers over compensation or work hours arising out of alleged violations of labor law.

The federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) applies to employers nationwide, while state laws may impose additional requirements on employers. Generally, violations of the FLSA or other labor laws by an employer result in the employee not receiving compensation for all of their work.

What Kind of Lawsuits Are Filed That Relate to Wage and Hour Law?

Examples of wage and hour claims include the following:

Unpaid Overtime

Failure to pay overtime is one of the biggest issues in wage and hour claims law. Often, employers’ failure to pay overtime is due to other labor law violations, like misclassifying workers as exempt when they are not or requiring some of an employee’s work be done while “off the clock.”

Under the FLSA, unless they are considered “exempt,” employees who work more than 40 hours in one workweek must be paid at least one-and-a-half times their regular pay rates for all time worked over 40 hours, the Department of Labor reported. A 2019 rule change made an additional 1.3 million American workers eligible for overtime pay, according to the Department of Labor.

Unpaid Preliminary and Post-Completion Activities

Does your boss ask you to arrive early to start booting up your computer or putting on your safety gear before you clock in? If so, you’re being asked to do unpaid work—and that’s illegal under the FLSA.

The same is true if you’re expected to clock out at the official end of your shift but remain on the premises cleaning, counting the till, or performing other closing duties. If you’re working, your employer is obligated to pay you. Not doing so is illegal.

If the time you spend on preliminary or post-completion duties is relatively short, you may feel that it isn’t worth pursuing a claim. However, if you spend just ten minutes or so each day and work a five-day workweek, that adds up to nearly an extra hour of compensation every single week—for every single employee asked to do unpaid work.

Unpaid Training, Meetings, and Lectures

Training sessions and meetings you have to attend for your job legally count as work, and your time in them should be compensated. Otherwise, your employer may be violating labor laws.

Unpaid (Working) Meals and/or Rest Breaks

If your meal and rest breaks are unpaid, your employer legally cannot require you to do work during these times. Expecting you to work during unpaid breaks is, like expecting you to work during any time that you are “off the clock,” not permitted under the law.

Unpaid or Underpaid Work Travel

If your work involves traveling, such as driving to meet clients or to project sites, the Department of Labor considers this compensable work time. Your employer cannot legally require you to perform work-related travel “off the clock.”

“Off the Clock Work”

Non-exempt employees shouldn’t be expected to perform any kind of work for their employer that is unpaid. Any work performed “off the clock” may constitute a violation of labor laws. This includes asking employees to work while they are off on sick leave, vacation, or maternity or parental leave. Unpaid “on-call” time may also constitute illegal work “off the clock.”

Underpaid Overtime and Improper Calculation of Overtime Pay

Any improper calculation of overtime pay and hours, particularly payroll miscalculations that result from a failure to include required activities in the calculation of overtime, can constitute a violation of labor laws.

Minimum Wage Violations

Employers aren’t permitted to pay workers less than the minimum wage (except in very specific circumstances). If tipped workers, like waitstaff, don’t receive sufficient tips to bring their lower cash wage pay to at least the regular minimum wage amount, their employer must make up the difference.

Compensatory Time Practices

Offering employees compensatory time—time off, equal to the amount of overtime work performed, at a later date—instead of paying overtime is a violation of the FLSA.

Other violations of the FLSA and labor laws include:

  • Failure to provide promised wage benefits, including any agreed-upon sick leave, vacation time, or maternity leave
  • Misclassifying workers as exempt or as independent contractors to avoid paying overtime or payroll taxes
  • Improper withholding of wages from employees’ paychecks
  • Failure to reimburse workers for work-related expenses
  • Wage discrimination based on gender (under the Federal Equal Pay Act) or on membership of any protected class under state law
  • “Prevailing wage” claims in public works projects
  • Retaliation for filing a wage and hour complaint, including wrongful termination

Wage and Hour Class Action Claims

Employers that violate labor laws typically fail to pay wages properly to multiple employees, often over a long period of time.

When a case is brought against an employer on behalf of multiple workers, it is called a class action claim. The workers seeking back wages make up the “class” of plaintiffs. In a class action wage and hour claim, the compensation recovered on behalf of the class is divided among plaintiffs, typically based on the amount of unpaid wages each worker claims.

Class action claims can streamline the legal process, allow plaintiffs to share resources, and give the plaintiffs more leverage in settlement negotiations.

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What to Do If Your Company Doesn’t Pay You

It’s an employer’s responsibility to understand labor laws and requirements and to proactively take steps to comply with labor laws. Not knowing the law or understanding its requirements is no excuse for failing to pay workers.

How Do I File a Wage Claim?

Employees can pursue compensation through different types of wage and hour claims. You can file a complaint with government agencies, like the federal Department of Labor and your state’s labor department. For many employees who have been denied the pay they deserve, pursuing a private claim may be a better path forward.

How to File a Wage Complaint With the Department of Labor

The U.S. Department of Labor allows employees to initiate a complaint online or by phone. Workers should gather information to provide to the DOL before initiating a complaint. The DOL’s investigation process includes holding an initial conference with the employer, conducting private employee interviews, reviewing the employer’s records, and holding a final conference with the employer.

State labor departments often allow workers to file complaints in one or more of the following formats:

  • File a complaint online
  • File a complaint by mail
  • File a complaint by phone

In some states, workers may even be able to file a complaint anonymously.

How Do I File a Private Wage Claim Lawsuit

If you want your case to be a priority—and who doesn’t?—then you should consider hiring an attorney to pursue a wage and hour lawsuit privately on your behalf.

A private claim accomplishes the same result—getting the money you deserve, both back wages and liquidated damages—but throughout the process, you have an experienced legal professional who is dedicated to representing you personally. This is a big difference compared to relying on whatever representative of the understaffed Department of Labor happens to be available when you need help.

While the DOL is responsible for investigating all complaints that are reported—closing 20,422 cases in 2022 alone—your lawyer’s duty is to prioritize and get results for your individual claim.

Additionally, under the FLSA, “the court in such action shall, in addition to any judgment awarded to the plaintiff or plaintiffs, allow a reasonable attorney’s fee to be paid by the defendant.” In other words, if you win your claim, your attorneys’ fees may be paid by your employer.

How Much Money Can You Get From Wage and Hour Claim Settlements?

How much money you can expect to receive from a wage and hour claim settlement depends on the extent of your unpaid wages. An experienced wage and hour attorney can help you calculate your unpaid wages over the course of your employment during the time covered under the statute of limitations.

Back pay isn’t the only compensation available to workers pursuing wage and hour claims. You may also be entitled to “liquidated damages” that can double the value of your settlement.

Back Wages

On average, workers who recover money for back wages received $1,393…”
On average, workers who recover money for back wages received $1,393, according to the DOL Wage and Hour Division. That amount often equals two, three, or even more of the worker’s weekly paychecks and may be enough to cover your rent or mortgage for an entire month.

Because this figure is only an average, some workers will see significantly more money from a wage and hour claim—often, thousands or even tens of thousands of dollars, for workers whose unpaid wages accrued over time add up to significant losses.

Generally, workers pursuing a wage and hour claim against their employer can seek compensation for any unpaid wages accrued during the two years preceding their claim, the Department of Labor reported. In matters involving “willful violations” of labor law, the statute of limitations is extended to three years.

Double Damages: Liquidated Damages

Your back pay is the pay you were entitled to months or even nearly two years ago. Finally getting back the money you have been waiting so long for is, in the words of the Department of Labor, “insufficient compensation” for the unfair delay in getting the pay you deserve.

As a result, the FLSA allows employees whose employers have failed to pay wages in accordance with the law to recover liquidated damages, or additional compensation equal to the amount of unpaid wages. Liquidated damages are, the DOL reported, “intended to compensate workers for damages they may have incurred as the result of not having been paid timely for all the wages they legally earned.”

Although the Fair Labor Standards Act allows plaintiffs in wage and hour claims to recover liquidated damages, there’s no guarantee that every individual case will result in a double-damages payout. An employer may be able to avoid liability for liquidated damages if it “shows to the satisfaction of the court that the act or omission giving rise to such action was in good faith and that he had reasonable grounds for believing that his act or omission was not a violation” of labor law, under federal law (29 U.S.C. § 260).

This is one way in which having an experienced wage and hour attorney on your side can increase the value of your claim by thousands of dollars. If your attorney’s investigation uncovers evidence that the employer’s failure to pay was not a reasonable, good-faith mistake but instead the result of either negligence or willful wage theft, this information could be what makes the difference between you receiving liquidated damages and being denied this additional compensation.

Which States Provide for Treble Damages for Wage Violations?

Although the FLSA is federal law, state law may also affect the amount of compensation to which workers are entitled. Several states allow for treble, or triple, damages by awarding liquidated damages in the amount of 200% of the employee’s back wages instead of 100%.

Some of the states that allow for treble damages, at least in certain situations, include:

Because state law affects the amount of compensation to which you may be entitled for failure to pay wages claims, it’s important to speak to a knowledgeable wage and hour attorney about your unique situation. The attorneys at Console & Associates, P.C. are seeking to interview workers nationwide about potential wage and hour claims at no cost.

Back Wages Paid by Industry

Between the back wages and liquidated damages, a wage and hour lawsuit settlement can amount to a significant payout for an individual. The collective value can be even higher.

Wage and hour claims can arise out of any industry. In 2022, the industries in which workers were paid the highest amount of back wages, according to the U.S. Department of Labor Wage and Hour Division, included the following:

  • The construction industry, in which workers received a collective $32.9 million in back wages
  • The healthcare industry, in which workers recovered $32.5 million in back wages
  • The food service industry, in which workers received $27.1 million in back wages
  • The building services industry, in which workers recovered $9.9 million in back wages
  • The retail industry, in which workers received $7.4 million in back wages
  • The agriculture industry, in which workers recovered $5.8 million in back wages

Keep in mind, too, that for every dollar of back wages awarded under a wage and hour claim in 2022, the workers may have also been entitled to an additional dollar in liquidation damages, effectively doubling the amount of compensation they receive.

How Can Wage and Hour Lawyers Help Workers Get the Money They Deserve?

Why do you need a lawyer for a wage and hour claim? Although you can pursue a wage and hour claim without an attorney by filing a claim with the Department of Labor Wage and Hour Division on your own, there are major benefits to having professional legal representation.

For one thing, in the majority of cases, your employer will have an attorney, if not a full legal team, on their side.

Wage and hour attorneys can help workers with the following:

  • Determining whether any labor law violation occurred and whether the unpaid wages are sufficient to make pursuing a claim worthwhile
  • Investigating the scope and extent of labor law violations
  • Gathering evidence to support the case against the employer
  • Calculating the full amount of unpaid wages, so you can finally be paid for all of your work
  • Initiating a private claim by sending a settlement demand letter or filing a lawsuit
  • Representing you in all legal proceedings in the course of the claim
  • Negotiating a settlement on your behalf or representing you in court

Free Consultations for Wage and Hour Claims

No Fee PromiseIf you are a frustrated worker who has been cheated out of the money you deserve, the wage and hour litigation attorneys at Console & Associates P.C. are here to help. If you’re ready to move forward with your claim, contact our attorneys today at 866-778-5500 or complete our contact form  for a free, no-obligation consultation. And, if you decide to work with us, we will not bill you for our services unless we can connect you with meaningful compensation, either through a jury verdict or settlement. We will attentively listen to your story, answer your questions, and offer you guidance about how you may be able to pursue a claim against the parties responsible for your injuries or loss.