Workers’ rights have been long fought for across industries and occupations in the United States. As part of protecting the health and safety of the American workforce, federal laws have been implemented to address and forbid the unfair treatment of employees by their employers. One such federal law is the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).
The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and state wage laws establish a minimum wage, overtime pay, and record-keeping requirements for employers and their employees. These statutory requirements were put in place so employers do not take advantage of employees, who deserve to have their hard work recognized in a financially respectable manner. Unfortunately, many employers unlawfully skirt around the FLSA’s employee protections and intentionally violate workers’ rights. One of the most prominent wage and hour violations arises with regard to overtime pay. Eligible employees who work more than 40 hours in a week are entitled to receive a higher rate of pay (a minimum of 50% higher than their normal pay rate) for every hour worker above 40. Employers use a variety of tactics to withhold earned overtime pay from eligible employees.
Practical Application of Federal Wage and Hour Law
The Fair Labor Standards Act applies to individuals in nearly every type of occupation and as the work involves interstate commerce. It also covers non-exempt workers for overtime pay. Non-exempt employees are workers entitled to earn the federal minimum wage and who also qualify for overtime pay calculated at one-and-a-half times their hourly rate for every hour worked beyond the standard 40-hour workweek. While many such occupations may be considered “blue-collar,” regardless of one’s occupation, if an employee qualifies as non-exempt they are entitled to FLSA protections.
Common Wage and Hour Law Violations
Employers can violate the FLSA in a variety of ways – most of which are aimed at paying employees fewer wages than they have earned and are rightfully owed. Sadly, employers will use scare tactics to keep employees fearful of retaliation if they report violations; however, such retaliation is illegal under federal and state employment law. Direct violations of the FLSA can include the following:
Under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”), some employees are “exempt” from receiving overtime pay, meaning they are not entitled to it. Employers often wrongly misclassify employees as “exempt” in order to avoid paying overtime wages. Neither all salaried employees nor all employees with the title of “manager” or “supervisor” are automatically exempt from overtime pay requirements. Employers also classify workers as “independent contractors” instead of employees in an attempt to avoid paying overtime wages. If an employee performs the following job duties and is titled as a manager or supervisor, then most likely he or she would be considered exempt:
- The employee manages or supervises other employees
- The employee has the ability to control other employees by directing their work and making decisions that directly affect the workplace
- The employee is regularly required to exercise management powers and does not spend the majority of their time performing non-managerial level work
- The employee is paid a salary and not paid hourly
“Off the Clock” Work
In many jobs, employees must perform certain tasks before they can begin or complete their work. Some employers try to avoid paying wages for this time, claiming it is “off the clock,” which is illegal. When an employer doesn’t pay employees for all time spent working for the employer’s benefit – regardless of whether the work is done before, during, or after shift – they are in violation of federal and state employment law and likely owe the workers back pay. An example of such action occurs when an employer requires employees to perform work before or after their scheduled shift without documenting the time. If a restaurant owner requires employees to report to work early but will not allow them to “clock in” until a certain time, this leaves no record of the employee performing additional work and thus not holding the employer liable for wages earned during that time period.
Workers employed in a variety of occupations are paid hourly salaries below the minimum wage limit due to being paid in tips, which is thought to make up the discrepancy in hourly wages. When employers require bartenders, busboys, waiters/waitresses, and others to pool their tips together and later divide them up equally among tipped workers, this constitutes tip pooling. Employers violate the law when they allow non-tipped employees to share in the pooled tips, causing tipped workers’ pay to fall below minimum wage.
Texas FLSA Wage and Hour Lawyers
The government takes overtime violations and workers’ rights very seriously – and for good reason. Workers have tirelessly fought for their rights for decades, and employers who intentionally violate employee protections are making a clear statement about how they value their workforce. Employees deserve to be rightfully paid for the time and work they perform. Employers who violate the FLSA can be forced to pay their employees what they are owed, plus additional damages. On top of that, they are forbidden from retaliating against workers who bring these violations to light. If you or a loved one is an employee who has experienced FLSA violations in the workplace, contact the Houston wage and hour lawyers of Dax F. Garza, P.C. today to discuss your case.