Every day in this country, there are employees who sue their employers over wage and hour disputes. The number one reason for these suits? Unpaid overtime, often stemming from employees being incorrectly classified by their employers to purposefully avoid paying overtime. The question centers on whether an employee is classified as exempt or non-exempt. An exempt employee meets the following standards:
-They earn a salary as opposed to being paid hourly.
-They earn at least $455/week.
-They are paid their full salary no matter how many hours they actually work.
All other employees are considered non-exempt, and thus are entitled to overtime pay at a minimum of 1.5 times their standard hourly rate. The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) requires employers to pay non-exempt employees overtime after 40 hours of work in a week.
Earlier this year, employees of Walgreen Co. were granted class-action status in a complaint against their employer which alleges they were improperly classified as exempt employees while still being treated largely as non-exempt. For example, despite being exempt in status their pay was reduced when they missed work. Additionally, they were routinely required to work more than 40 hours a week performing tasks that were clearly non-managerial.
Although the case is only beginning, it outlines the growing problem for workers as Walgreen Co. is not the only large corporation that has created a class of jobs with the term 'manager' in the title but with duties that are clearly non-managerial. Many people think this is part of a concerted effort to avoid paying overtime to non-exempt employees.
Another aspect to this messy situation is the growing list of employees suing their employers for lunch breaks and other unpaid time that were limited by the actions of employers without compensation (as in the case of employees suing Apple Computer because security checks and bags searches delayed their lunch hour by 15-20 minutes daily, which they are trying to define as overtime) or because the volume of work precluded taking a scheduled (and often legally mandated) break or lunch hour (as in the case of employees of United Medical Center of Nevada).
The take-away from this is that after years of a weak labor market where employees seemed ready to accept anything as long as they had a job, a rebounding labor market may be ushering in a time of reckoning for companies who have abused their position of strength in the job market.
If you have been wrongly treated regarding state or federal wage and hour labor laws, Mark Fox can help you. Mr. Fox is the founder and principal attorney at Mark W. Fox, P.A., a general practice law firm serving clients in Ocala & all of central Florida in areas as diverse as labor and employment law, and business law. Please call 352.390.8889 or go to http://www.mfoxlawgroup.com for more information.