We’ve said it before: knowledge is power when it comes to overtime laws. Underhanded employers rely on their workers’ unfamiliarity with regulations set by the Fair Standards Labor Act (FSLA) and devise slight smoke-and-mirror schemes to obscure an employee’s overtime eligibility. However, most managers don’t moonlight as magicians so they’re not as skilled in concealing these secrets.
Is your boss using “sleight-of-hand” to keep you from the wages you deserve? It’s time to find out if you’ve been duped. Here are the top five tricks employers use to get out of paying overtime wages. .
5. Encouraging Employees to Work During Unpaid Breaks
If your employer asked or even allowed you to work through an unpaid, scheduled break, but failed to adjust your hours, then that time was unlawfully deducted from your pay. It’s true, working during a lunch break alone doesn’t exactly equal overtime pay – employees must work 10 or more hours to qualify; however, this unlawful practice is probably part of a bigger company pattern.
If your employer isn’t shy about encouraging unpaid lunch hours, then it’s likely that, in the past, he or she has asked for additional courtesy hours at the end of the day, as well. Remember a standard work day plus a one-hour, “on-the-clock” lunch brings most employees to nine working hours. All it takes is just one more additional hour spent on a lunch-free day and you’re entitled to overtime by law.
4. Providing a Salary Instead of an Hourly Wage
Annual-wage workers aren’t automatically exempt from overtime pay. Yet, deceitful employers may let low-income employees believe that they need to work (for free) around the clock to qualify for their so-called salary; however, this isn’t always the case.
If you’re provided a salary instead of an hourly wage and make less than $455 per week, then you should receive overtime for any work time that’s equal to 10 hours or more. An annual salary of $24,000 or lower guarantees those long, salaried hours will be rewarded with time and one-half of an employee’s regular pay rate. If your company doesn’t track or pay those additional low wage salary hours, your employer could be tricking you into complementary work time.
3. Misclassifying Workers as Exempt
When an employer designates a low wage worker as “salaried,” often he or she is misclassifying that worker as exempt. Exempt workers are not eligible for overtime, whereas nonexempt employees are.
If you’re a low-wage worker or an employee with a job title or description that does not qualify for exemption under the FSLA’s guidelines, then you are likely entitled to overtime. An employment attorney will let you know whether or not you qualify.
2. Altering Job Titles or Descriptions
According to the FSLA, a worker’s job title and duties also categorize a worker as exempt or nonexempt. Some employers may alter job titles or descriptions to unlawfully qualify workers for exemption.
If you’re a low-level worker with a managerial title, you may think you’ve hit the jackpot – especially if your daily responsibilities don’t reflect the tough, authoritative decisions outlined job description; however, this deceitful tactic could be a means of increasing your production while withholding additional pay.
1. Retaliating Against Workers Who Fight for Unpaid Wages
As their grand finale, some double-dealing employers may retaliate against an employee that fights for unpaid wages. By withholding bonuses or even firing employees, some companies believe they can silence the problem. The truth is, this “trick” is unlawful, as well.
Perhaps you were armed with information on the FSLA’s overtime regulations. If so, it’s possible you confronted your dishonest employer about any one of these unfair or unlawful practices. Subsequent wrongful termination and other avenging acts by your employer may entitle you to the overtime wages you sought, as well as damages.
Do you believe you’re owed unpaid overtime? Show your employer a few tricks of your own. Contact Wenzel Fenton Cabassa, P.A. for a free consultation regarding your employment wages.
Please Note: At the time this article was written, the information contained within it was current based on the prevailing law at the time. Laws and precedents are subject to change, so this information may not be up to date. Always speak with a law firm regarding any legal situation to get the most current information available.