How Employers Avoid Paying for Overtime
Many employees miss out on the benefits of overtime wages due to the craftiness of employers who find ways to evade paying overtime wages. These employers rely on their employees’ ignorance about their overtime wage rights.
The Fair Law Standards Act (FLSA) is the federal law that establishes minimum wage and overtime eligibility, amongst other things. According to the FLSA, non-exempt workers who work over 40 hours in a workweek are entitled to overtime pay. However, many employers try to circumvent this law.
Understanding the seven major ways that companies try to get away with not paying overtime will help you understand when your employment rights are being violated.
1. Misclassification of Employees
The FLSA classifies certain employees as exempt from its minimum wage and overtime provisions. Exempt employees are not entitled to minimum wages or overtime pay, depending on the exemption. One exempt group is independent contractors. Independent contractors are not required to receive at least a minimum wage or overtime wages. Your employer could classify you as an independent contractor when you do not fall under the legal definition of one to avoid having to comply with the FLSA.
The biggest distinctions between independent contractors and employees are in how much control the individual has over when they work and whether a person is “in business” for himself or herself.
Independent contractors decide when and how to do their work, they set their own work hours, and they often get their work from different sources. It is much cheaper for a company to pay people as independent contractors instead of employees by saving on minimum wages, overtime wages, workers’ compensation insurance premiums, and the employer’s share of taxes.
You can take it up with your employer if you think you have been misclassified. But if they are reluctant to rectify the situation, consult an employment lawyer at FairLaw Firm right away.
2. Off-The-Clock Work
Your employer may ask you to carry out specific tasks before you clock into work or after you clock out. These could be tasks like preparing your work site for the day’s work; loading up equipment, tools, or materials; cleaning up or unloading after clocking out; answering calls outside of work time; or redoing work that was not done to the employer’s satisfaction before.
If you find yourself in this situation where you are required to work before or after your paid work time, you are likely entitled to be paid for the time you spend doing off-the-clock work.
Ensure your employer understands and agrees to pay you for your off-the-clock work. Otherwise, consult an attorney with adequate experience and knowledge of Florida labor laws for assistance.
3. Working Through Meal and Rest Breaks
Federal law does not require employers to grant meal or rest break periods, although some states require it. Florida law does not require it either, but many Florida employers provide these breaks as a matter of policy. Generally, short breaks (typically between 5 and 20 minutes) are compensable according to federal law, meaning that your employer should pay you for these short breaks and not make you clock out of work.
However, longer breaks or meal periods (more than 20 minutes) are not regarded as work time and are ineligible for compensation. Your employer may make you work during uncompensated breaks so they do not have to pay for the extra work. You should be clear with your employer about the need to be completely relieved of all work duties and not be interrupted during your meal breaks. If you choose to or have to work during these breaks, you have a right to be compensated.
4. Automatic Deductions for Breaks
Some employers who provide meal breaks to their employees adopt an automatic deduction policy, where they remove anywhere from 30 to 60 minutes automatically from the hours worked by their employees for each day worked.
According to the FLSA, automatic deductions for breaks are permissible. They become illegal when the deduction is made but when an employee does not take an uninterrupted break and is not provided with a suitable method of informing the employer about the inability to take a break.
As a result of having to work through an automatically deducted break time, employees will be underpaid or unpaid for overtime work.
In most cases, employers do not do this deliberately, so you can communicate with your employer if you are experiencing this. If your employer refuses to fix the situation, feel free to contact our Miami employment lawyers at FairLaw Firm to discuss your options.
5. Shifting Hours Between Workweeks
According to the FLSA, overtime must be calculated for each individual workweek. Some employers try to avoid paying overtime by moving their employee’s hours between workweeks or averaging it between two workweeks.
For example, some employers will try to avoid paying overtime to an employee who works 50 hours by only having them work 30 hours the following week.
Employers who pay every two weeks can average both weeks and arrive at two 40-hour workweeks, showing that the employee only worked 80 hours and not pay. This violates the FLSA. Another way that employers try to avoid paying overtime is to tell an employee who works 50 hours one week to only work 30 hours the following week and then pay the same amount for both weeks (as if they worked 40 hours each week).
Although the employee got paid for 40 hours after only working 30 hours the second week, the employer still violated the FLSA—and cheated the employee out of overtime pay because 10 hours of overtime is not the same as 10 hours of regular pay.
You may be entitled to compensation if you have experienced either of these two situations.
6. Working “Off-the-Books”
Working off-the-books is an unreported employment arrangement where employees are paid in cash without any payroll documentation or tax reporting. It is illegal in almost all cases and is typically done to save the amount the employer pays in taxes, workers’ compensation insurance, and other expenses.
Also, since it is unreported, employers can exploit workers by making them work longer than 40 hours per week without overtime pay. The best way to avoid this situation would be to reject any offer to work “off the books” in the first place.
But, if you are already in such a situation in Florida, contact Fairlaw Firm immediately for a free evaluation of your case so we can determine how best to help you.
7. Improperly Calculating Overtime
Federal law requires overtime pay to be at least 1.5 times your regular hourly rate. That is, if you earn $15 per hour, your overtime pay should be at least $22.50 for every hour you spend working beyond the regular 40-hour work week. Salaried workers are also entitled to overtime unless they fall under one of the exempt employee classifications, according to the FLSA.
However, calculating overtime for salaried workers without fixed work schedules may be tricky. Also, for tipped employees or employees who receive commissions/bonuses, calculating overtime is complicated.
An employer can remove tipped credit from a tipped employee’s hourly income, and the exact amount the employer can remove depends on state law and the minimum wage.
Finally, some employers incorrectly deduct non-discretionary bonuses when calculating employees’ regular rates to determine overtime pay.
The fact is the laws governing the calculation of overtime pay are complicated.
For further clarification on how your overtime pay should be calculated, consult a professional overtime lawyer at FairLaw Firm on the issue to determine if you are being cheated out of your wages.
Is Your Employer Violating Your Rights?
Some employers may do some of the above things out of ignorance; however, ignorance is never an excuse. That is why it is vital that you, as an employee, understand your rights as provided by the law and take action if they are ever trampled upon.
If you have reason to believe or suspect that your employer is using any of the above tricks to cheat you out of your rightful pay, speak up as soon as possible!
Remember that you have limited time to recover what you are owed. You may be missing out on a significant chunk of your hard-earned money.
Contact FairLaw Firm Today for Assistance
If you are in such a situation, contact FairLaw Firm now. Our Miami employment attorneys have years of experience successfully navigating Florida overtime laws. We can advise you according to the specific needs of your case and provide capable legal representation to get you compensation where possible.