Overworked and Underpaid: Overtime Pay Claims under the FLSA

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Overworked and underpaid. Many feel that way, but for those who are not paid correctly for all the hours they work, the feeling is legitimate. One of the common causes of this feeling is when employers pay employees a fixed salary without paying them for the overtime to which they are legally entitled. This is based on a law called the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”). Among other things, this law says that unless employees are exempt, their employers must pay them time and a half for their overtime (that is, hours worked in excess of 40 hours in a week). The mistake many employers make is assuming that they can turn employees into exempt workers by simply paying them a salary. Oftentimes, the decision to pay that worker a fixed salary is accompanied by an elevated title such as manager, supervisor, administrator, etc. This is a mistake because under the FLSA, paying employees a salary and / or giving them a fancy title alone does not make them exempt from the law’s overtime pay protections. Rather, the law requires employers to focus on their employees’ primary duties. Only when the employees’ duties fit squarely within one or more of the law’s established exemptions may their employers avoid overtime pay via a fixed salary. If no exemption applies, employees are entitled to overtime pay, regardless of their job title or salary. The exemptions exist for:

  • Executive employees
  • Administrative employees
  • Professional employees
  • Certain computer employees
  • Certain outside salespeople
  • Highly compensated employees

Each of these categories has its own set of complex legal definitions which must be carefully applied to each job in question. Employers who mistakenly assume that employees fit within an exemption may be held liable for the employee’s overtime pay, liquidated damages, attorney’s fees and court costs. For an example of how these costs add up, see FLSA Exemptions: Counting the Cost Locally. For more information about this article, please contact me at [email protected].

This article is for general informational purposes only. It is not to be considered as legal advice, and it does not establish an attorney-client relationship. For legal advice regarding your specific situation, please consult your attorney. Copyright 2015 Swenson Lervick Syverson Trosvig Jacobson Schultz, PA
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