How To Sue a Company for Overtime Pay

Since the 1930s, employers in the United States have been legally required to provide overtime pay for any eligible employee who logs more than 40 work hours in a workweek. Its purpose shifted from being economically stimulating to being an employee right. Although we maintain today that overtime pay is a legal right and requirement, some employers still try to avoid paying the time-and-a-half that they owe their employees.

Employers try to avoid these overtime payments in a number of ways, including unique timekeeping, employee misclassification, and payment miscalculation.  If you’ve been wondering why or how to sue a company for overtime pay, our attorneys at Leichter Law Firm are here to answer your questions. We’ll go over a basic explanation of overtime rules, common overtime violations, and provide advice on what to do if you believe your employer is doing something illegal.

When Must Employers Pay the Minimum Wage?

The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) states that the current federal minimum wage is $7.25 an hour. While the FLSA minimum wage applies to most employees, not every employer and employee is covered. Your employer must abide by FLSA minimum wage standards if they meet the following criteria.

  • You have $500,000 or more in annual revenue.
  • Your employees do business between states (interstate commerce).
    • Interstate commerce involves phone calls, mailing, and handling any goods that come from out of state.

With these standards, very few employees are exempt from federal minimum wage standards. Below, we list the criteria for workers that are not covered under the FLSA.

  • Students
  • Independent contractors
  • Newspaper deliverers
  • Outside salespeople
  • Local newspaper employees with a circulation of less than 4000
  • Small farm workers
  • Seasonal amusement/Recreation business employees
  • Switchboard operators of a phone company with 750 employees or less

Employees who regularly earn tips could also earn less than minimum wage. To adopt this policy, however, you must explain it to your employees.

How much overtime pay do I get?

All non-exempt employees must receive overtime pay. The vast majority of employees are covered by the FLSA, and receive 1.5 times their hourly rate for every hour worked over 40 hours in a week. This is also called “time and a half.”

One confusing exception to the overtime rule is the exemption for certain “white collar” employees. Below, we list the criteria for these “white collar” employee exemptions.

  • You are a salaried employee who makes at least $684 a week.
  • You perform office or non-manual tasks that relate to a business’s operations and involve independent judgment.
  • Your duties involve the use of knowledge which you acquired through advanced studies.

Can You Sue an Employer for Not Paying Overtime?

Yes, as long as you are a non-exempt employee. If you are a worker who has not received the overtime pay you earned, you can take legal action. It is a violation of FLSA standards to avoid paying overtime to eligible employees.

If a company is found guilty of violating FLSA overtime rules, they can be criminally prosecuted, and face up to $10,000 in fines for the first offense. If that same company is found guilty of this a second time, all responsible parties could face prison sentences. Any employers who repeatedly violate the FLSA may be fined up to $1,000 for each violation.

Can Salaried Employees Sue For Overtime?

Yes, under certain circumstances. Salaried employees can still qualify for overtime pay, despite what many people believe. In general, if you receive a regular salary of at least $684 a week or $35,568 a year and perform certain job duties, you are likely disqualified from overtime pay. Otherwise, you most likely get overtime pay.

Do You Have an Overtime Case?

If you believe you have not received just overtime compensation from your employer, you may have an overtime case. Our qualified employment attorneys at Leichter Law Firm explain when and how to sue a company for overtime pay. Below, we list three of the most common overtime violations by employers.

  1. Misclassification: Employers may try to list their employees as exempt, even if they aren’t. They do this by listing employees as exempt “managers”, listing them as exempt “white collar” workers, paying employees on an hourly basis rather than a salary, docking pay based on performance, or paying a salary less than $684 a week.
  2. Not counting hours worked: If employers properly identify their employees, they may still try to avoid paying overtime by undercounting their hours worked. They do this by requiring “off the clock” work, requiring work through meal breaks, expecting unpaid work at home, not counting travel time, or not counting training.
  3. Hourly rate miscalculation: The FLSA states that the federal overtime rate is 1.5 times your hourly rate. Some employers try to avoid this payment by either not counting all of their wages or not counting performance-based bonuses in the hourly rate.

Is it worth filing a lawsuit for only a little bit of overtime pay?

Yes! The damages you recover in your suit against your employer could exceed the actual overtime pay you did not receive. You will be entitled to your unpaid wages and overtime, interest on the unpaid wages as set by your state’s law, penalties from your employer, and even attorney fees. 

How an Experienced Employment Law Attorney Can Help

If you believe your case is simple, you can easily file a complaint with your state’s labor department. However, if you are unsure of how to proceed to assert your rights, our experienced employment lawyers at Leichter Law Firm can help. In order to learn how to sue a company for overtime pay, we recommend calling our office, or visiting our website to schedule your free consultation.

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