Unpaid Wages and Overtime

Does your employer owe you unpaid wages or overtime?

The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) Is the federal law that requires employers to pay a minimum wage and overtime pay for all time worked in excess of 40 hours per week. Currently the federal minimum wage is $7.25 per hour. If you are currently being paid less than this, your employer may be violating the FLSA. It does not matter if you agreed to work for less, or even if you agreed to work for free. The FLSA does not allow employees to give up their rights under this law. Sometimes employers use excuses to avoid paying wages, such as they don’t have enough money, the employee’s cash register was short, the employee violated some company rule, or the employee failed to return company property, like uniforms and tools. None of this matters. If your employer allowed you to work, he or she must pay you at least minimum wage for all the time you put in.

If you are paid by the hour (as opposed to a fixed salary) in most circumstances you are entitled to be paid time-and-a-half for all hours worked over and above 40 hours in one workweek. It does not matter if you worked only 30 hours the week before; if you work more than 40 hours the following week, the overtime rate still applies. The two most common ways employers try to avoid paying overtime are: requiring employees to do some work before or after clocking in, like attend pre-shift meetings, put on and take off uniforms, clean work areas, etc., and misclassifying employees as exempt from overtime and paying them a salary instead of an hourly wage. Even if your position has been correctly classified as being an exempt, salaried position, if your employer docks your pay for partial day absences (like taking off a couple hours to go to the doctor or to attend your child’s school play) then your employer must pay you overtime if you work more than 40 hours in a week.

There are some exceptions to these requirements. For example the minimum wage and overtime laws do not apply to volunteers or trainees. They do not apply to some small businesses. Businesses with less than $500,000 in sales or receipts are not covered by the FLSA.

What Protections do I Have Under Louisiana State Law?

Louisiana employers are required to pay all wages due within 15 days of when an employee quits or is fired, or by the next scheduled payday, whichever comes first. Unused vacation pay must also be paid by the employer. Employers who fail or refuse to comply with this law are liable for payment of up to 90 days of wages. A court may also order the employer to pay an employee’s reasonable attorney fees.

What Can I Do About It?

The FLSA provides that employees can bring suit against their employers, present or past (provided the statute of limitations has not expired) for unpaid wages and overtime. Employees who win such lawsuits are often entitled to double the unpaid wages or overtime. In some exceptional cases, courts may award triple damages. In addition, the court may order the employer to pay the employee’s attorney fees.

If you think you are owed past wages or overtime from your employer, contact attorney Edward A. Doskey.