Wage disputes can arise in almost any work environment, even productive and happy ones which operate smoothly and without incident. Employers sometimes may even be unaware that a violation has occurred, which makes it all the more important that you as an employee have a strong understanding of employment law and your right to fair wages for the work you engage in. Under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), you are protected against an employer taking advantage of your good nature, lack of leverage, or ignorance of your rights to obtain unpaid labor from you.
In many disputes, the issue can be quickly and amicably resolved in-house by simply taking the time to frankly and calmly address the problem with the HR department and make clear your expectations for compensation. Honest mistakes and errors are not entirely uncommon in payroll departments, and immediately assuming the worst can quickly lead to ill will between you and your superiors, possibly damaging your future prospects of advancement and compensation. Not all disputes can be come to a happy conclusion without drastic action however, and in some situations it may be appropriate to contact a wage dispute attorney in order to obtain the compensation you are entitled to.
Common Wage Law Violations
Wage disputes are frequently the result of employers failing to issue the appropriate wages for all hours an employee has worked, and there are many situations in which it may be unclear whether or not your are entitled to be paid for a particular activity. The following are a few common examples of work related activities for which you are entitled to be paid that employers may neglect to include in your paycheck:
- · Meal breaks which you are required by your employer to work through.
- · Required attendance at classes and training held outside of normal work hours.
- · Any time you are required to be on your employer's premises waiting for duties or instructions.
- · Time you are expected to be working “off the clock” before clocking in or after clocking out.
Employers will frequently attempt to argue that these situations do not entitle you to pay, but the FLSA is very clear in it's language and protects employees from exploitative use of any gray area in what qualifies as hours worked.
Another manner in which your employer may fail to pay you the wages you are owed is by ignoring overtime stipulations which entitle you to time and a half for all hours worked over a limit of 40 hours in a single week. Whether or not hours worked constitute true overtime hours may seem like a simple distinction, but whether or not you qualify for overtime exempt status is sometimes a quite complex matter. While most hourly employees are entitled to overtime pay, individuals who are paid the same amount each week no matter how many hours they actually work are typically considered exempt. The following are a few examples of exempt categories of employees:
- · Outside salespeople
- · Independent contractors
- · Seasonal business employees
- · Executives and administrative professionals
When an employer is adamantly opposed to paying overtime wages that you are confident are owed to you, your best option may be to seek the guidance of an experienced overtime lawyer.
Author: Chip Sedgewick typically writes about employement law topics for the San Francisco based Ottinger Firm, P.C., whose attorneys are dedicated to protecting the rights of Bay Area employees.