Minimum Wage and Overtime Concerns
St. Louis Employment Law Attorney Explains Exemptions
Riggan Law Firm, LLC represents individuals and groups who have been deprived of legally mandated minimum wage and / or overtime pay. In general, the law requires that most employees in the private and public sectors be paid at least the federal minimum wage as well as overtime pay at 1.5 times the employee's regular rate of pay for every hour of work per week over 40 hours. There are several exceptions (called "exemptions") to this general rule. The most common exemptions are for certain executive, administrative, and professional employees, including teachers and academic administrative employees in elementary and secondary schools; however, there are many specific jobs and industries that are exempt from the general requirement that an employer must pay minimum wage and / or overtime.
In the eyes of the law, there are certain employees who are entitled to minimum wage and / or overtime pay, and there are certain employees who are not. Entitlement to such pay is governed almost entirely by the nature of your work and job duties. The rules regarding who is and is not entitled to such pay are vast and confusing. A good way to remember these rules is that, if you perform manual labor and / or are an "hourly" employee (meaning that you are required to clock-in or otherwise keep track of your hours, and your pay fluctuates based on a differential in your hours worked), then you are probably entitled to minimum wage and overtime pay.
Common Violations Made by Employers
Despite the fact that the federal minimum wage and overtime law was passed in the 1930s, many employers run afoul of the law, either intentionally because they do not want to follow the rules and pay the required compensation or unintentionally because they do not understand the law. Below are some common violations committed by employers:
- An employee is "re-classified" and the employer all of a sudden begins paying overtime, despite no change in the employee's job duties. This action is usually taken because the employer figures out that the company was previously violating the law and has corrected the violation without compensating the employee retroactively for the violations that preceded the correction.
- Some employers erroneously believe that an employee is "exempt" and not entitled to overtime merely because the employee receives a flat salary; however, the employee's job duties may qualify for a different pay assessment.
- If you are labeled as an "independent contractor" but the employer still exercises significant control over your activities, then the employer may have misclassified your employment status and deprived you of legally mandated minimum wage and / or overtime pay for employees.
- If you are an hourly employee who is paid on a "straight time" basis (i.e., flat weekly or monthly amount without regard to the number of hours worked), the employer may have violated the law.
- You are asked to spend time engaging in work for which you are not paid (i.e., duties performed before clocking in or after clocking out, such as preparation, clean up, putting on or taking off safety gear, work performed during breaks, and traveling between work sites after the start of but before the end of the business day). Such time may also include time during which you are not actively working but are "on call" and also time you spend attending mandatory work meetings or training.
- Your employer fails to compensate you for overtime that was not "pre-approved." The law requires eligible employees to be paid overtime for all hours worked in excess of 40 hours per workweek if the employer knew or should have known that you worked the overtime. Employees may be disciplined if they work unauthorized overtime in violation of the employer's policy, but the employer still must pay the overtime.
- Overtime pay is denied to commissioned employees who do not regularly travel away from the employer's workplace. Employees who perform inside sales, for example, are typically entitled to overtime pay if they are not required to travel on a regular basis.
Effective July 24, 2009, the minimum wage under federal law is $7.25 per hour. Employers are required to pay the federal minimum wage unless the applicable state's minimum wage is higher. Missouri's minimum wage for 2013 is $7.35 per hour. Effective July 1, 2010, the minimum wage in Illinois was increased to $8.25 per hour, which Illinois employers are required to pay since it exceeds the federal minimum wage.
Legal Remedies for an Employer's Violation
Employees whose minimum wage and / or overtime pay rights have been violated may file suit as individuals or as part of a group, which is called a collective action. In addition to recovery of unpaid wages, an employee who successfully files suit for unpaid minimum wage and / or overtime pay may be able to recover an equal amount in liquidated damages, which makes the employee's recovery double. Moreover, an employer who loses a lawsuit is typically required to pay for the employee's attorneys' fees and court costs.
Time Limit to Assert a Claim
In instances when an employee has been deprived of legally mandated minimum wage and / or overtime pay, the law allows an employee to recover that pay for a period of up to two years, running backward from the date of any lawsuit that is filed (three years if a willful violation has occurred). It is important for employees to contact legal counsel as soon as possible in order to understand and assert their rights, as any delay may cause a forfeiture of compensation that is due. If you are interested in filing a case, do not hesitate to contact a St. Louis employment law attorney from Riggan Law Firm, LLC as soon as possible to retain trusted legal counsel..