What’s the most common violation of employee rights we see on a day-to-day basis? Without question, it’s the failure of employers to properly pay employees. This is true whether the employer is a mom-and-pop corner store or one of the world’s largest corporate conglomerates.
Paycheck violations carry severe consequences for employers. An employee who isn’t paid properly can sue up to three years after the paycheck violation occurred, even if the employee no longer works there. And most violations allow the employee to recover double what they were originally owed. Even better, the law requires the employer to pay the employee’s attorneys’ fees for filing the claim.
The “Big Five” wage and hour violations you’re likely to experience are:
- Your employer’s misclassification of you as exempt and not entitled to overtime. Many employers treat anyone who is a manager, assistant manager or supervisor as ineligible for overtime. That’s wrong. It’s not the title that counts. It’s the work done. Many managers and supervisors are entitled to overtime pay.
- Your employer’s failure to pay overtime just because you’re paid a salary. Again, completely wrong. Salaried employees can be eligible for overtime just like workers earning minimum wage.
- The failure of an employer to properly track all time worked by an employee. Employers often ignore time an employee spends emailing, reading, reviewing and drafting when at home or out of the office. Every minute you spend performing services for your employer is compensable time for which you must be paid.
- The failure of an employer to pay overtime when due. Some employers pay straight time for hours worked over 40, or give employees time off in lieu of overtime, or shift hours from one pay period to another. All these practices are illegal and entitle you to compensation – usually double the amount your employer originally owed. (Only government employers can give employees “comp time” in lieu of overtime pay. No private-sector employer is allowed to do this.)
- The failure of an employer to pay “odds and ends time,” meaning break time, travel time, etc. Do you/did you work during breaks including lunch and dinner breaks? Do you travel for work? Under virtually all circumstances you must be paid for this time. This is true even if your employer has a policy against working during breaks or travel.
- The misclassification of an employee as an independent contractor. Your employer’s self-serving decision to label you an independent contractor has no impact on whether you are or are not an actual employee. A surprising number of employers falsely label workers as independent contractors in order to avoid paying overtime or the employer’s share of FICA taxes.
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