Getting 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 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.
Examples of wage and hour claims include the following:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.”
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.
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.
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:
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.
We are here to help.
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.
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.
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:
In some states, workers may even be able to file a complaint anonymously.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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:
If 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.