Protecting Your Rights to Fair Compensation as an Employee
Understanding the Federal Wage and Hour Law Protecting Workers to Fair Pay and Overtime
Having rights pertaining to wage, hours, and compensation as an employee is not a privilege that has always been federally protected. Holding employers responsible for violations of wages and hour laws is a rather recent practice that continues to be administered and enforced by the Wage and Hour Division (WHD) of the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) through the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). This act sets the absolute limits, but state laws may add to it. It is important to know your rights that are protected federally as well as through your state and local governments. Note that State and local government employees may have special rules as well.
Throughout United States history, there have been serious problems with employers that have exploited their workers for profit. Money hungry companies frequently demanded long hours of work for little to consideration for the wellbeing of their employees, and they offered little to no compensation. Also, work environment conditions were not nearly as well regulated as they are in today’s workplaces, even though some places may still need more improvement. Injuries on the job still happen today, but now we have workers compensation, but in the past desperate employees were forced to suffered grave injuries due to unnecessary and hazardous working conditions. Furthermore, even children were required to work in these dangerous and negligent circumstances.
While not all employers seek to commit injustices to their workers, there are still others that will do so for profits without a second thought. If you are an employee, and your rights have been violated, you should know that there are federal and state laws that were created to protect you and your right to earn compensation in your workplace.
The Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938
The Fair Labor Standards Act is where the right to collect fair and timely payment for work performed originated. It is also why employers must meet certain safety guidelines and follow certain practices. When an employer disregards or violates these laws today, the company and/or the employer is liable to face potential lawsuits and other legal actions.
These wage and hour laws regulate:
- Minimum wage
As of 2009, it is federally set to $7.25, but some states have a chosen to require a higher minimum wage for their residents.
- Overtime Pay
Overtime is required for non-exempt employees working over 40 hours/week, and the rate must be at least one-half times the regular pay rate.
- Hours Worked
This includes all the time that an employee is required to be on the at their prescribed workplace, on duty, or the employer’s premises.
Employers must officially post the FLSA requirements. They also must keep records of employee time and pay.
- Youth employment
In order to protect minors and encourage educational opportunities, it is prohibited to employ children below a certain age. The exact minimum age is is not the same for all industries. It is never acceptable to make them work in dangerous conditions.
Equally important, the Fair Labor Standards Act also prohibits employers from retaliating against employees who protested about these concerns. While the law alone cannot prevent all employers from being exploitative, it sets a standard that companies can be held to and reprimanded for in the court of law if necessary.
Understanding When the Fair Labor Standards Act Protects You
Unfortunately, understanding whether you are covered under these federal laws can be a complicated matter. Some laws protect only certain types of workers and some of the protections can vary based on various factors. In addition, these laws also include exceptions. For example, certain professionals, agricultural, or seasonal workers are exempt from some of these regulations. Furthermore, a worker may be considered exempted one week and nonexempt the next if his or her duties repeatedly change. Also, particular rules can apply toward indicated agencies such as federal and state government employees. Seeking the service of an experienced and qualified attorney can determine whether you are protected by under the Fair Labor Standards Act.
In most situations, as an employee, a person cannot waive their worker’s rights. If they are part of a union, the union cannot waive rights on the employee’s behalf, either. It is worth noting that an employment contract or agreement that includes FLSA violating terms would likely be found illegal and unacceptable should a claim be pursued.
As an employee, if you notice that your income payment was short, or if it seems to have unexplained discrepancies, you must take action immediately. Federal laws require that wage and hour cases are filed within a strict time schedule. These restrictions can play a major role in determining whether or not the employee will be successful in their case. Looking for help and initiating an action is better done sooner than later.
Identifying Frequent Types of Wage and Hour Violations
Despite the federal laws generated to protect the working class, there continues to be a discrepancy in employee securities. Sadly, some employers still look for ways to take advantage of their employees time and energy. It is important to look out for oneself and know when it is time to hold your employer accountable.
A few examples of exploitative treatments include:
- Unpaid overtime compensation;
- Unpaid compensation for any work hours;
- Minimum wage discrepancies; or
- Other misclassifications.
While employers directly involved in the unfair treatment of employees can ultimately ruin their reputation, violating FLSA and state laws could finally result in far more serious ramifications. If an employee or employee association brings forth a claim against the company, which then resulted in a successful outcome, the employer may be required to pay back all of the earnings that every employee should have received. Furthermore, if the employer deliberately underpaid the employees, there is also the likely chance that there will be a penalty fee attached to the consequence.
If You Have Been A Victim of Wage and Hour Violations
Experienced employment attorneys are able to guide you through the process of recovering wages owed to you. Qualified attorneys can support your claim by offering the following services:
- Assessing the validity of your claim;
- Collecting important evidence to support your claim;
- Determine accurate damages;
- File with the Wage and Hour Division of the U.S. Department of Labor; and/or
- Charge the employer for back wages.
If you believe you are owed wages in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act or your state laws, then an experienced and knowledgeable attorney can benefit your case. Attorneys who are experienced in handling claims related to wage and hour laws can help you seek the compensation to which you are owed. Whether you have been denied overtime pay or unlawfully denied compensation to which you were entitled, an attorney can determine your claim and fight for your rights as a victim. Many attorneys are willing to offer free consultations, so if you are ready to take action and get the support you deserve, it is time to ask the lawyers.