The numbers look impressive, but WHD is woefully understaffed. It has one investigator for every 135,000 workers compared to a figure of one for every 22,600 workers 50 years ago. One 2017 study found U.S. workers lose $15 billion to wage theft annually. Approximately 20% of this total – some $3 billion – can be attributed to lost overtime wages.
That leaves about $2.7 billion of hard-earned worker overtime pay in the pockets of greedy employers. No wonder a record number of workers are filing successful lawsuits to get their money back.
What Are the Common Violations of Overtime Pay Law?
Misclassification of Exempt Employees
By federal rule, The Department of Labor establishes the threshold for salaried employees at $455 per week. Those earning less than this amount are regarded as hourly workers and are entitled to overtime. Unscrupulous employers violate this rule by classifying some hourly workers as salaried employees exempt from overtime.
Workers have successfully sued to force their employer to pay them their overtime wages. Two claims specialists sued their employer MetLife, Inc. for misclassifying them as exempt employees in 2013 and subsequently not paying them overtime they earned for working between 45 and 60 hours each week.
MetLife reportedly settled with the plaintiffs and almost 450 other claims specialists for $2 million in 2017.
Not Paying Workers for All the Hours They Work
Federal law requires that a worker is paid for all hours worked and that all hours worked be counted each week. The employer must pay overtime for each hour worked over 40 hours per week. Some employers cheat their workers by not including hours “worked off-the-clock”.
The restaurant chain TGIF, however, did not get away with it. Workers sued the company for overtime pay law violations along with other wage theft. In 2017 TGIF paid its workers $19.1 million to settle these claims.
Misclassifying Employees as Independent Contractors
Federal law requires employers to recognize the difference between an independent contractor and an employee. An independent contractor does not receive employee benefits or the protection of FSLA laws, such as overtime. Cheating employers attempt to save money by classifying employees as independent contractors in violation of the law.
Prudential Insurance financial representatives believed they had been misclassified, and therefore did not get paid for overtime as they should have been. After ten years of litigation, Prudential settled their claim and other wage theft claims in 2017 for $12.5 million.
Intimidation of Workers Who Try to Claim All Hours Worked on Timesheets
Some employers want it both ways. If you work as a service technician or a retail salesperson, your employer may want you to be available round the clock, but not to pay you for your time.
In 2017, service technicians at GE settled for $9.5 million because supervisors intimidated them into not claiming overtime hours on their time sheets. The overtime hours included usual service technician tasks like travel between jobs and responding to emails after normal work hours.
Victoria’s Secret violated the law by using “on-call shifts”, which required their salespeople to put their days on hold while waiting to hear whether or not a scheduled shift would go ahead. It was the employer’s way of keeping staff in reserve in case the store was busier than expected, but there was no compensation for the salesperson who had to spend their free time waiting for a shift that might never materialize, and none of these hours counted towards overtime.
The salespeople sued. Victoria’s Secret settled for $12 million in 2017, stopping all “on-call shifts” going forwards.
What Are Some of the Other Common Overtime Pay Law Violations?
- An employer not keeping accurate records of your hours worked. They must do so, and they must also make these records available to you. It’s recommended to keep your own records for purposes of comparison.
- Salespeople cannot be treated as exempt from overtime if all their sales activities are made from their employer’s office, or by mail, telephone, or the internet.
- Not paying overtime to field service workers in industries such as oil and gas.
- Not including bonuses in the calculation of the overtime rate due.
Contact an Experienced Overtime Law Attorney If You Believe You May Have Unpaid Overtime Claims
If you believe you have been the victim of an overtime law violation, call Lemberg Law now on 855-301-2100 for a fee, no obligation case review with one of our expert lawyers.