Unpaid wages (Wage theft) is a serious problem in Florida and across the United States. Wage theft results in a number of ways. It can happen if an employer pays employees less than minimum wage; it can happen if an employer fails to pay overtime; it can happen if an employer changes an employeeâs time card or otherwise decreases the number of hours actually worked; it can happen if an employer pays a salary and claims an employee is exempt from overtime, when he is not; and it can happen if an employer makes and employee âvolunteerâ her time to benefit the employerâs business. There are many other ways that wage theft can happen but the end result is that the employee is not paid for hours worked and the employer uses labor for free.
Wage and hour requirements are governed by laws and regulations contained in the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and its implementing regulations. Virtually all employers are subject to these laws and regulations. They are complex and cover thousands of different employment situations. But their impact is profound since the overriding purpose of the law is to guarantee that employers pay workers at least minimum wage and time and one half for all hours in a work week over 40.
We have successfully helped hundreds of employees recover wages that they should have been paid. In most cases the FLSA permits the employee to recover not only the wages that were not paid, but an equal amount in what is called âliquidated damagesâ. In other words, if an employer is required to pay an employee $5,000 in back wages, the law requires that employer to pay the employee an additional $5,000 or double what the employer should have paid. And in most cases, the employer, not the employee, has to pay the employeeâs attorney.
The FLSA can also protect independent contractors if it can be shown that the worker is not truly independent. There is an increasing trend in employment for employers to label its workers âindependent contractorsâ as a way to avoid payroll taxes, benefits, workmanâs compensation premiums, etc. But even if the employer requires the employee to sign a document entitled âIndependent Contractorâs Agreementâ that is not controlling. Unless the employee is truly independent, he might be entitled to minimum wage and overtime wages.
The FLSA also makes it unlawful to be retaliated against for questioning or complaining about how an employee is paid. If an employer retaliates against an employee by terminating him, changing his job duties, lowering his evaluation scores, transferring him, reducing his workload or increasing his work load, to name a few, those actions could be considered adverse and the employer could be liable for monetary damages and attorneyâs fees.
Below are references to websites on overtime and labor. The Department of Labor, Wage and Hour Division maintains an excellent website that is a useful tool in researching answers to questions about wage and hour issues. Also visit my page that explains more details onÂ Wage Theft.
- Department of Labor Web Site regarding work hours and overtime.
- Fact Sheet # 77A: Prohibiting Retaliation Under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA)