Every employee deserves full compensation for their hours worked, especially any tiresome overtime hours. Under federal law, once an employee has worked 40 hours a week they are then owed time and a half for every hour worked past that initial 40 hours.
Your employer may owe you overtime if you are working 40-plus hours per week and are not receiving overtime pay. That unpaid overtime can quickly add up, and some workers discover that they are owed up to thousands of dollars in overtime pay.
Unfortunately, companies may wrongly claim that workers are exempt from receiving overtime. Businesses may try to save money by misclassifying workers, such as alleging workers are independent contractors rather than employees. Companies may instruct employees to not record time traveled, time waiting, or after-hour phone calls as paid time. As well, employers may declare that workers are exempt from overtime when in fact they are not. Yet, all employers are liable for failing to pay overtime wages.
If you are worried that your employer is unlawfully withholding wages, or you are simply owed unpaid overtime, our Texas employment attorneys can assess your situation. Our legal team can determine whether you classify as an exempt or non-exempt employee, and build a wage claim to recover unpaid wages you are owed.
To determine a worker’s eligibility for overtime pay, it’s first necessary to establish how that work has been categorized under the Fair Labor Standards Act, known as the FLSA. There are two major categories, exempt and non-exempt, and only nonexempt employees are entitled to overtime pay.
An exempt employee may be working in an executive, administrative, or professional position such as a doctor, lawyer, accountant, or salesperson. Sometimes seasonal or domestic laborers can be subject to an exemption. When determining exemption status, a court may look at the specific job functions rather than the job title.
Exempt workers are not eligible to collect overtime wages. Typically, a Texas worker’s exemption status depends on three key factors: how much they are paid (salary level), the method they are paid (salary basis), and what their job duties consist of. An exempt worker must earn at least $684 per week or $35,568 per year.
The following categories of workers are typically exempt from overtime pay:
It is important to note that simply a job title can not exempt a worker from receiving overtime pay. The specifics of their work duties, salary, and qualifications will determine their exemptions. Some employees are subject to exemption depending on the industry they work in.
There are three major categories of exempt job duties:
To be exempt from overtime pay, your major work responsibilities have to be considered exempt job duties.
Non-exempt workers are legally entitled to overtime pay for overtime hours regardless of their typical earnings.
Generally, manual laborers whose work duties involve repetitive tasks with their hands, physical skills, and physical energy are considered nonexempt workers. Laborers such as construction workers, carpenters, craftsmen, ironworkers, electricians, fishermen, mechanics, and plumbers are non-exempt. Along with manual laborers, all first responders such as EMTs, firefighters, and police officers tend to be nonexempt employees.
Although the positions stated above are typically non-exempt, exemptions will ultimately be determined by the specific duties and employment situations.
If you are unsure what category you fall into, our employment lawyers at The Galo Law Firm can review your work duties and contract to determine your eligibility for overtime pay.
Under federal labor laws, only “employees” are eligible for overtime pay. It is not unknown for employers to declare an employee an independent contractor to avoid paying overtime. To be considered an independent contractor, the company or individual paying only has the right to direct the final result of the work but not how, where, and when the job is done. If the company is in charge of the how, where, and when the work is accomplished, then the worker would more than likely be considered an employee.
There are cases where it is wrongly assumed that salaried employees are exempt from overtime. All workers, regardless if they receive salary or hourly and are due overtime pay unless they are clearly exempt under the Fair Labor Standards Act.
Under overtime laws, employers are required to pay workers time and a half for every hour worked over 40 hours in a workweek. This can mean that a worker who makes the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour will then receive $10.88 an hour as their overtime rate. For non-exempt employees who are not paid hourly, their pay must be converted to an hourly equivalent.
If it comes to your attention that an employer may be withholding overtime wages for overtime hours worked, we urge you to act quickly to protect your employee rights.
Depending on the circumstances, speaking with your employer may be the first step. An employer may have failed to compensate you due to an error or misunderstanding.
However, if you suspect your employer is knowingly withholding wages, we recommend you speak with an employment lawyer to assess the case and advise you on your next steps.
It’s important to note that it is prohibited under FLSA for an employer to terminate an employee for filing a complaint or taking legal action.
There are three main options to deal with wrongfully unpaid overtime that we will discuss below.
1. File an Unpaid Overtime Complaint
The Wage and Hour Division (WHD) under the U.S. Department of Labor is a federal agency that maintains all FLSA regulations on employers and businesses. The WHD is where unpaid overtime complaints are filed. When filing a complaint, the wage and hour division will first open an investigation on the employers or company to determine if their payment practices are legal and in line with the FLSA. After filing a complaint, there are instances where the Secretary of Labor will file an unpaid overtime lawsuit on behalf of the worker.
If you choose to file a complaint with the WHD, and they go on to file a wage and hour lawsuit via the Secretary of labor, then you will be unable to file a private lawsuit against your employer. If the WHD observes that your employer compensates you for the previously unpaid wages, then you will no longer be able to file a lawsuit.
2. File an Unpaid Overtime Lawsuit
If you choose to sue your employer for unpaid overtime pay, then you must first provide proof that you worked over 40 hours a work week without receiving the proper overtime compensation.
If the lawsuit is successful for the employee, then the employer must compensate the employee for their legal fees, court costs, all unpaid overtime wages, and liquidated damages.
3. Join a Collective Action
When multiple employees file lawsuits against the same employer for pay violations, it can be considered a collective action. If you discover that your coworkers are filing lawsuits against your employer and you work under similar circumstances, then it is probable you qualify to join the collective action lawsuit. However, it is optional to join collective action. Workers are entitled to file separate lawsuits against their employers even when a collective action is underway.
Is There a Time Limit on Taking Action Against An Employer?
The statute of limitations, or deadline in simpler terms, for filing a claim against an employer can depend on your case. Typically, for an unpaid overtime claim, an employee has up to two years to file a complaint or lawsuit. If action is not taken within two years, the court will likely deny the case.
This time limit can be extended up to three years if the worker can prove that the employer knowingly went against FLSA regulations.
Time is of the essence in unpaid overtime cases. At Galo law Firm, we encourage you to get in contact with one of our employment lawyers as soon as you notice a serious pay violation. Our law firm can review your case with a professional eye, quickly spotting the breaches of rights and leading you to recover your damages faster.
What Damages Can Be Recovered?
Employees can be entitled to recover all unpaid overtime wages for the past two years from the date they file the lawsuit, as well as the unpaid overtime that adds up while the case is in process. If your employer or company knowingly violated the law, then you can recover up to three years of unpaid overtime wages.
A successful unpaid overtime lawsuit will reimburse the employee for all legal fees, court fees, and total damages.
When facing an employer, especially in the circumstance of a large business or company, it becomes essential to have an experienced and knowledgeable Texas overtime lawyer at your side.
At the Galo Law Firm, we are determined to protect every worker’s employment rights. Our lawyers can offer you personalized legal advice in regard to your situation and clarify each legal process along the way.
At Galo Law Firm, we will analyze your case to determine your best plan of action and file a claim or lawsuit on your behalf. Our lawyers have years of experience dealing with overtime laws, so we understand how worrying unpaid overtime can be.
To discuss your unpaid overtime situation with our Texas legal team today, call 210-361-8043.
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