Wage and Hour

Across America, employees are being robbed by their employers — robbed of proper overtime payments, robbed of the minimum wage that they are due, and robbed of bonuses, commissions, comp time and travel expenses. Such employees have a legal right to seek financial compensation via a wage and hour lawsuit or other legal action.

Fair Labor Standards Act

American employees are protected by the Fair Labor Standards Act, or FLSA, which governs wage and hour law. The FLSA establishes a federal minimum wage, provides for overtime payments, defines the 40-hour work week and regulates child labor. For instance, if an employee has failed to pay employees fully for overtime work, the FLSA protects and upholds their claim to this money.

Other disputes may arise over such issues as “equal pay,” often in terms of an employee’s gender. Pay should not be based on gender or on sexual discrimination. If this is the case, you can seek an Equal Pay action against your employer.

Each state has its own wage and hour laws along with federal guidelines of the FLSA. Some states, for instance, set a higher or lower minimum wage than does the federal government. Texas does not, but rather adheres to the current federal minimum wage. That means the minimum wage in Texas is $7.25 per hour, a rate that’s been in effect in July 24, 2009.

Overtime Pay

Texas also does not have state-specific laws for overtime pay. That means it adheres to federal standards. Under these, almost every hourly employee and many salaried employees have a right to receive overtime pay. If you have worked more than 40 hours per week but have not received overtime pay, you have a legal right to claim overtime pay, along with interest, penalties and attorney fees.

The FLSA provides that overtime pay be at least equal to 1.5 times the amount of regular pay. In other words, if you make $8 per hour, your overtime pay should be $12 per hour, for each overtime hour worked. If an employer tries to pay the regular hourly rate for overtime work, that is illegal.

Texas wage and hour law does not provide overtime pay for those who happen to work on a holiday. An employer may choose to pay time-and-a-half for holidays, but is not required to do so.

Under federal law, employees are required to pay for overtime rather than give employees extra time off from work, or “comp time.” If you have worked overtime and your employer refuses to pay you for that, but instead insists on giving you comp time, that employer is violating the law.

An employer also may “reclassify” an employee’s status, making him or her eligible for overtime. In such cases, the employer most likely owes the employee for past overtime wages, but is trying to avoid this for future wages via reclassification. Such a move does not negate the fact that the employer owes for past overtime.

In general, if your employer has failed to pay for your overtime work, or has underpaid it, you have a legal right to seek proper overtime payment via a wage and hour lawsuit.

Employers also may mischaracterize some employees as being “exempt” from certain wage and hour provisions. For example, an employer may hold that an employee is “salaried” and thus has no right to overtime pay. But that is not necessarily true, depending on the nature of the salaried worker’s job. A few salaried employees who supervise other employees or who make significant business decisions may not be entitled to overtime pay. But many if not most salaried employees may be entitled to overtime pay. And hourly employees always are due overtime pay under the state or federal guidelines where they live.

Employers also may try to avoid paying overtime that is rightly due to employees by disregarding certain time spent at work. That may include the time employees spend changing into their uniforms, waiting for the chance to do their work, or recording their time worked. An employer also may use the excuse that an automatic time clock system didn’t function properly in order not to pay overtime. But in each case, the employer owes the employee for their time on the job. Employers also may not ask employees to work “off the clock” without providing them compensation.

Unpaid or Underpaid Wages

Under federal law, if your meal or rest break is 20 minutes or less, your employer must compensate you by paying you for that time. Meal breaks of 30 minutes or more need not be compensated.

Employers also may refuse or fail to make proper payments to employees upon termination, including money owed for sales commissions or for overtime. This is illegal. Employers also may disregard the terms of work contracts signed by them and their employees. That also is illegal.

If you believe you have been denied proper wages by your employer, consult a wage and hour lawyer or attorney with Jim S. Adler & Associates immediately. In many cases an employee cannot claim back-payments beyond two years of the date that a legal action is initiated. But it may be possible to collect unpaid or underpaid overtime for two to three years before filing a wage and hour lawsuit.

Wage and Hour Class Action Lawsuit

Many employees with wage and hour claims have waged legal battles collectively against employers such as Family Dollar Stores, which was directed by jury verdict to pay $38 million to store manages. Such wage-and-hour class action lawsuits have led to substantial jury awards in many other states, including Texas. A case against Wal-Mart in Pennsylvania led to total payments of $187.6 million in state court.

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