Wage Theft Still A Huge Problem On the Rise In The U.S.

Some employers offer comp time instead of paying overtime, other don’t pay for “unauthorized” overtime or pressure employees to work “off the clock”, while still others label employees as “salaried” or “exempt” to avoid paying overtime. But the Fair Labor Standards Act, since 1938, makes these types of actions illegal. This and other wage laws, at both state and federal levels, are often ignored by employers attempting to boost their bottom lines by cheating their employees out of income they have rightfully earned.

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In truth, the vast majority of workers are entitled to overtime pay. This includes hourly employees and those paid a day-rate, but not some professionals such as doctors and lawyers, and most salaried employees that manage other employees, including the authority to hire and fire, degreed professionals such as CPA’s and some engineers, and outside sales staff. Most other employees are legally entitled to overtime wages calculated at least one and one-half times their normal hourly pay rate for all hours worked over 40 per week. In some states such as California, employees are entitled to daily overtime if they work more than 8 hours in a single day.

The Department of Labor is explicit in its mandates, and the penalties for attempts at circumventing them are extreme. The penalty for employers who have been found in violation is paying the employee twice the overtime pay due to him. Despite these extreme measures, many employers still try to avoid the law and steal earned wages from their own employees with a variety of tactics. Employees should be aware of their rights and fight for their earnings.

Some common tactics of which the employee should be wary are titles that imply authority, such as assistant manager, when that authority really does not exist or is extremely limited. If you are called a project manager, but are not in charge of anything but your own daily work, you may be caught in this fictitious loop. If you are an internal sales person, you may not be the independent contractor the owner claims you to be.

Workers are often bullied into agreements with their employers that waive the right to overtime pay because they are afraid for their jobs. However, this right cannot be voided by any employment agreement. Unless the worker is actually “exempt” under the wage and hour laws, he in not only eligible for overtime pay, failure to compensate him fairly for his overtime is punishable by liquidated damages doubling the unpaid amount owed.

Workers who feel that they have been cheated out of overtime pay they have earned should seek legal assistance immediately. The Department of Labor, together with private attorneys who handle overtime claims, help protect the rights of the worker and ensure that investigation into possible violation of wage laws does not result in termination or other retaliation against the worker. A confidential consultation will help you determine the best way to resolve the issue and obtain fair compensation.

Jesse Dugan is a part of an elite team of writers who have contributed to hundreds of blogs and news sites. Follow him @JesseDugan.

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