Every year thousands of workers are forced to work unpaid overtime hours under fear of losing their jobs. Not only is this practice immoral, it is illegal. For this reason, many Americans may be entitled to recover wages as well as damages from their employers. Lawsuits have been filed across the country in order to hold these companies accountable.
What Is The FLSA?
The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) is a law passed by Congress in 1938, designed to protect worker’s rights by ensuring they are properly compensated for their efforts. This bill is responsible for many of the rights we take for granted today. These include:
- 40 hour work week,
- Time and a half overtime (over 40 hrs a week),
- The abolishment of child labor.
The FLSA requires that workers be divided into “Exempt” and “Non-exempt” categories, which determine whether they are eligible to receive overtime. Exempt employees are generally salaried workers, or hired 3rd party contractors. While Non-exempt employees are usually workers who are paid an hourly wage for their efforts. The federal law states that no worker shall be required to work more than 40 hours per week, without due compensation. Thousands are forced to work much more than this. They remain silent for fear of losing their jobs. This is the exact reason this law was passed, and it is important that sufferers of FLSA violations know they are not alone and that their employers must be held accountable for their crimes.
Life Before The FLSA?
In the year of 1938, Congress passed a law that is thought by many to be the backbone of our modern society; The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). Prior to this law it wasn’t uncommon to find children, as young as 5 years old, working on farms and inside dangerous factories. People were forced by their employers to work 18 hour days just to feed their families. Many workers of the era made less than $1 a day. Though the FLSA is now considered an outline of certain basic human rights, the law was fought every step of the way by special interest groups. Even the Supreme Court saw many labor laws as “unconstitutional” for many years, including the court’s declaration in 1905’s Lochner v. New York. That ruling found a 60-hour workweek unconstitutional, saying that it violated the “sanctity of contract” and “economic liberty.” Thankfully for millions, the nation’s highest court had a change of heart in the late 1930’s. Today many American’s take it for granted that they can do simple things like come home after an 8 hour day and if more work is required, they will be adequately compensated for their labor. These parents can also sleep soundly at night knowing that their children will not be forced to work in inhumane environments just to put food on the table. These are the blessings of being an American. These are the rights that many employers are violating.
FLSA Overtime Claims
Every year thousands of Americans are forced work unpaid or underpaid overtime because for fear of losing their employment. If you or a loved one have worked overtime, which is more than 40 hours per week for hourly employees, and not been paid time and a half wages, you may have an FLSA claim. Some examples of FLSA claims include:
- Unpaid time and a half after 40 hour work week
- Negotiated wages under time and a half standard
- “Off the clock” work, required by employer
- Unpaid mandatory training days
- Classifying “non-exempt” employees as “exempt” employees
- No pay for time spent changing in and out of uniforms, otherwise known as “donning and doffing”
- Classifying work as “volunteer work”
- Requiring hourly employees to take work home with them
- Failure to pay employees for miscellaneous tasks work related tasks
- Failure to pay federally mandated minimum wage
- “Processing errors” that leave out time to be paid
These are just examples of the many ways that employers can potentially violate the FLSA law. Other instances may arise. If your employer has paid you less than minimum wage, refused overtime, required additional labor, or lied about pay, you may have an FLSA claim.
FLSA Law And Amendments
The Fair Labor Standards Act was drafted in 1932, and took six years to pass in 1938. In the 8 decades years since, the law has seen over a dozen amendments. Each amendment provided updated standards to a law designed to grant American’s basic human rights designed to prevent exploitation of men women and children through abusive labor. These amendments include:
1947 Portal-to-Portal Act – Defining an employee’s “regular rate” in order to calculate applicable overtime pay.
1955 amendment – Included retail and service workers to be covered by minimum wage laws. Increased minimum wage to 90 cents an hour.
1961 amendment – added another method of determining enterprise coverage. Increased minimum wage to $1.25 an hour. Entitlement to sue for back wages was granted
1963 Equal Pay Act – “Equal pay for equal work”, The Equal Pay Act made it illegal to pay some workers lower wages than others strictly on the basis on their sex.
1966 amendment – Started coverage to some farm workers while increasing the minimum wage to $1.60 per hour. Extended coverage to government employees.
1967 Age Discrimination in Employment Act – Prohibited discrimination in hiring practices of those 40 years of age and older.
1974 Fair Labor Standards Amendments – Expanded coverage to state and local employees previously not covered. Increased minimum wage to $2.30 an hour.
1977 Fair Labor Standards Amendments – Minimum wage increase to $3.35. Changes made to tipped employee credits. More expansion of coverage.
1983 Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act – designed to protect migrant and seasonal farm workers. This amendment adressed working conditions and work-related conditions while requiring farm labor contractors to register with the US Department of Labor.
1985 Fair Labor Standards Amendments – Granted employers permission to grant employees leave in lieu of overtime pay.
1986 amendment – Granted permission for The United States Secretary of Labor to provide special certificates to allow employers to pay less than the minimum wage to people whose productive capacity is impaired by age, physical or mental deficiency, or injury.
1986 Department of Defense Authorization Act – Repealed the eight-hour daily overtime requirements on all federal contracts.
1989 Fair Labor Standards Amendments – Minimum wage increase to $4.25 per hour with a $3.35 an hour minimum wage for new employees’ while in their first ninety days of employment.
1996 Small Business Job Protection Act – Minimum wage increase to $5.15 an hour while freezing tipped employees wage increases.
2004 rule change – Reclassification of thousands of jobs as “exempt”. Now requires that an exemption must be based on a worker’s actual job function and not job title.
2007 Fair Minimum Wage Act – Minimum wage increase to $7.25 per hour.
2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act – Granted mothers time to breastfeed their children. Ensured that employers must provide “a place, other than a bathroom, that is shielded from view and free from intrusion from coworkers and the public.”
2016 rule change – Employees earning a salary of less than $913 per week must be paid overtime, effective December 1, 2016.
FLSA In Review
The Fair Labor Standards Act, or FLSA, was passed by congress in 1938. Since then the law has seen over a dozen amendments designed to keep labor standards current and fair. However, each year thousands of workers experience unfair compensation from their employers. These can include a variety of infractions such as, paying less than minimum wage, refusal of overtime pay, required additional labor, or lies about pay. These are only a few of the many ways employers can violate FLSA laws. If you or a loved one has worked for unpaid overtime, worked for less than minimum wage, or felt bullied by an employer about unfair compensation; You are not alone. Thousands of hardworking Americans have filed suit against their employers in order to hold them accountable for breaking federal employment laws.