Need State and Federal Wage-and-Hour Protection?
Our Local Wage and Hour Law Attorney Can Defend Your Rights
The Wage and Hour Division (WHD) of the U.S. Department of Labor is responsible for upholding a number of regulations concerning fair hours and wages for employees across the nation. The Division enforces Federal standards for minimum wage, overtime pay, and protection for workers concerning wages and hours, among other similar duties. Part of their responsibility entails conducting investigations against any employers suspected of violating Federal wage and hour protections. Many investigations are started due to complaints from current and/or former employees. If you are facing legal trouble related to Federal wage and hour protections, know that you have rights and options.
Richard Seymour is a wage and hour attorney and founder of The Law Office of Richard T. Seymour. He has almost 50 years of experience in the field of employment law. founded this law firm with the goal of providing a wider array of services to his clients not only in the Washington D.C. area, but across the country. Since June 2005, he has been dedicated to each and every client, appearing in various courtrooms around the nation with the same enthusiastic vigor as he showed in the last. His sterling dedication to his clients has earned him multiple accolades in the legal world. He has consistently been ranked as one of the top lawyers on the influential law website, Super Lawyer; and in 2017, Richard was featured as one of the Top Lawyers by The Washingtonian magazine.
What Is the Federal “Fair Labor Standards Act”?
The Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”) is a Federal law that applies to the entire nation. The FLSA requires that covered employees be paid a minimum wage of at least $7.25 an hour, whether or not the job is “exempt” from overtime requirements (meaning that the employer does not have to pay overtime to these employees) or “nonexempt” from overtime requirements (meaning that the employer does have to pay overtime to these employees). The FLSA requires that “nonexempt” employees be paid time-and-a-half their regular rate for working more than 40 hours a week.
The FLSA in detail:
- Jobs that can be exempt from the overtime requirements include managers who actually perform managerial duties, administrators, learned professionals, and similar people.
- There are specific exemptions from overtime, such as the “outside sales” exemption and jobs that are covered by the Motor Carrier Act.
- Simply being paid a salary does not make your job exempt from the requirement that overtime be paid time and a half.
- Federal law does not require employers to pay employees their regular rate of pay unless overtime is involved.
State laws can add to your protection, but cannot lessen your protection. An experienced employment law attorney who is well versed in State and Federal wage and hour laws can help determine what will best benefit you and your situation.
What If My Employer Violates the FLSA?
The U.S. Department of Labor files lawsuits against employers for violating the FLSA and obtains money for affected employees. However, it does not act as an attorney for the employee(s) and the Department is under no obligation to get you full monetary relief. Budget restrictions have left the Department of Labor – like all government agencies – without all the funds needed to provide full enforcement. Unfortunately, as a result, many employers can cheat their employees without much fear of governmental interference.
If you find yourself or someone you know in this situation, the following information may be important to you:
- You can protect your own rights, and those of others You do not need to rely on the government — you can file your own lawsuit, with your own choice of attorney, giving you more control over the lawsuit. Time limits are important. Relief under the FLSA is automatically available for violations within two years before the case or consent form was filed in court. The longer you wait, the less relief you can get from the defendant.
- Willful violations. Relief is available for willful violations within three years before the case or consent form was filed in court. The Supreme Court has held that a violation is “willful” if the plaintiff proves “that the employer either knew or showed reckless disregard for the matter of whether its conduct was prohibited by the statute”. Again, the longer you wait, the less relief you can get from the defendant.
- You can receive double damages in many cases. The FLSA States that the accused must prove the “good faith” defense. If the defendant cannot prove a “good faith” defense lost earnings are usually doubled as “liquidated damages.”
- A union’s blessing does not protect the company. Unions do not always have the assistance of lawyers in negotiating contracts. As a result, some collective bargaining agreements contain provisions for payment that violate the terms of the FLSA. In any event, unions do not have the legal authority to give up some rights of employees under the FLSA, so these violations are still violations and can be challenged in court.
- Your employer can be made to pay attorneys’ fees. You may be eligible to receive a partial or total reimbursement for what you have paid your attorney. If you are paying attorneys’ fees as the case goes along and the case is won or settled, then the court has the power to order your employer to pay a court-ordered amount of attorneys’ fees. In the event that you cannot afford to pay attorneys’ fees during the case, most plaintiffs’ attorneys will work for a percentage of the total recovery. Any fees and expenses paid by the employer under a court order will reduce the overall cost to the plaintiff, leaving them with more money.
Is the FLSA My Only Wage and Hour Protection?
It is important to note that the FLSA only provides limited protection. For example, the FLSA does not provide any remedy when an employer does not pay an employee the previously agreed upon rate. The only exception is if it affects overtime compensation or unless the total compensation goes below the minimum wage.
This means that an employer could get a person to work for them by promising to pay him or her $10 an hour, work the person for 40 hours a week and then pay the person at the minimum wage of $7.25 an hour for 40 hours instead of the agreed-upon $10 an hour, and the FLSA will provide no remedy.
Unfortunately, no one is trying to remedy the imperfections of the FLSA.
What Are Wage and Hour Class Action Lawsuits?
Where each individual’s injuries are too small to justify the expense of a separate lawsuit for that individual, the only way to enforce employee rights is to bring a lawsuit that gets relief for a large number of affected employees.
Most wage and hour cases fit this model. When depositions can cost a thousand dollars a day and a lawsuit requires hundreds of attorney hours, the only practical way to receive justice is to sue on behalf of several workers involved in the same case.
Unlike virtually every other law protecting employee rights, however, the FLSA does not allow class actions. Its substitute is a “collective action” in which relief can be obtained only for those employees who file a “consent form” in court. Further, it is important to note that the Department of Labor can kill a private lawsuit simply by filing its own lawsuit. That may have made sense back in 1938 when the law was passed and there were few lawyers willing to represent workers, but it makes no sense today.
The Department of Labor cannot kill claims under State law. They can ask a court to enter an “injunction” requiring cheating companies to change their ways, establish a monitoring system, and punish them for contempt of court if employers go back to their old ways. The FLSA does not allow any private plaintiff to obtain an injunction, but, in some States, private plaintiffs are allowed to get an injunction to enforce the State law. The requirement of filing a consent form often helps employers, because many employees are afraid of retaliation and will not file these forms at the start of the case. On average, only one out of six employees “opt-in” by filing their consent forms and no relief is obtained for the other five. If the six wait too long before filing their consent forms, they may lose part of the relief they would have gotten if they had acted more quickly.
This greatly increases the number of employees who have to be cheated before it makes economic sense for them to file a lawsuit. If the level of cheating requires the losses of a hundred employees to be at stake in order to justify a lawsuit, and if only one out of six employees is expected to “opt-in,” there have to be 600 victims to start out, instead of 100, to justify a lawsuit. A lot of cheaters can get away with violating the FLSA because of this defect. In order to combat this problem, a class action lawsuit can be filed under State law.
State and Local Wage and Hour Laws and Wage Payment Laws
State laws can add important protections where they exist. Some – but not all – States have laws requiring payment of a minimum wage and requiring payment of overtime. Many States simply adopt the FLSA requirements and exemptions from overtime while others opt to create their own standards. As with the FLSA, State laws often require plaintiffs to prove that the employer knew of the work, or should have known of the work and allowed the employee to perform the work anyway. Not all States have a minimum wage or overtime law. However, most States have wage payment laws which can often be used to enforce an employer’s promise to pay the initial agreed upon hourly rate, or to pay overtime for more than 40 hours’ work in a week.
The benefits of filing a lawsuit regarding State-law wage protections include:
- Class action lawsuits are normally available for claims under State and local law.
- Some States’ wage and hour laws have longer periods of limitations, so a remedy can reach violations years farther back than the FLSA reaches. For example, while the statute of limitations to file claims under the FLSA is two years — three years if the employer is found “willful” — New York State law covers a six-year period of limitations for such claims. Some States have wage payment laws, requiring employers to pay the agreed rate of pay for all time worked. Some of these laws provide for double, triple or even quadruple damages, often including a court-determined amount of attorneys’ fees. Where the State does not have a wage payment law, a contract claim can be made for the lost pay, but this normally does not include liquidated damages or an award of attorneys’ fees. State Certain remedies are provided by some States in situations where employees are forced to work through paid rest breaks. An experienced employment law attorney can help you determine if your rights were violated. Some States can bring their own enforcement proceedings. However, most State tax laws are geared to favor the Federal tax laws. As a result, Federal tax reductions have starved State and Federal agencies alike Federal of the resources needed to do their jobs. This has left many workers without much-needed government protection. The only alternative is private lawsuits.
Questions? Call a Washington DC Wage and Hour Law Attorney
If your wage-and-hour rights have been violated, you should consult a professional employment law attorney that can fight for your rights. For almost 50 years, Richard has cultivated his knowledge in the field of employment law, while providing dedicated and heartfelt legal representation to clients around the nation since the founding of his firm in June 2005.
Have questions? The Law Office of Richard T. Seymour has answers. Contact us today to discuss the details of your case.