Employers routinely fail to comply with Federal and State wage and hour, overtime and minimum wage laws. The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) is a federal law that requires employers to compensate employees a minimum wage and further requires employers to compensate workers at an overtime rate of time and one-half their regular rate of pay for all hours worked over 40 in a workweek. Additionally, Florida has a minimum wage law and other laws that protect employees when companies fail to pay employees for all hours worked.
Wage and Hour Matters
The Fair Labor Standards Act attorneys at Florin Gray Bouzas Owens are committed to ensuring that Florida employees are paid legally and that employers follow Federal and State wage and hour, overtime and minimum wage laws. Wage and hour violations often impact a class of individuals because employers often treat all of their employees a certain way or treat a particular job category the same. In these situations, the best way for workers to change their employer’s pay practices is to bring a class action or collective action lawsuit. The attorneys at Florin Gray Bouzas Owens have litigated class action and collective action wage and hour and overtime cases against large call centers, big banks, debt collection agencies, the telecommunications industry, large parking & valet companies, diagnostic testing firms, soft drink corporations, and many others. Class actions and collective actions can seem intimidating at first. Florin Gray Bouzas Owens offers free consultations to help you understand your options and are committed to making the process smooth and easy to understand.
Among the variety of wage and hour matters that we handle, these are the most common:
- Unpaid Overtime
- Off-the-Clock Work – rest and meal breaks, preliminary and postliminary work
- Misclassification, Exempt vs. Non-Exempt – Simply because an employer pays an employee a salary does not necessarily mean that the employee is not entitled to overtime compensation.
- Improper Classification as Independent Contractor – It is very common for employers to characterize a worker as an independent contractor when the worker is considered an employee of the company under the law.
- Unpaid Wages – including bonuses and commissions
- Improper Calculation of Overtime Rates
- Minimum Wage Violations
- Tipped Employees – Improper tip pooling and tip sharing, i.e. managers improperly sharing in employee tip pools
Every year, tens of thousands of U.S. employees are victims of wage theft by employers. In fact, the U.S. Department of Labor Wage and Hour Division received nearly 20,000 complaints in 2017.
Through enforcement, the Wage and Hour Division has recouped hundreds of millions of dollars in back pay for workers. Staggeringly high as they may be, these numbers only represent formal complaints and are likely a tiny fraction of the true number of employees who have been affected.
The power dynamic between employee and employer is almost always to the advantage of the employer. Unfortunately, employers often leverage that power against employees. If your employer has taken advantage of you, get help from an experienced team of attorneys. Florin Gray Bouzas Owens fights for people whose employers have treated them unfairly. Our Tampa employment attorneys give voice to employees mistreated by the system. We help them fight against unfair employment practices, regardless of how large a business or corporation is. Big names or strong-arm tactics don’t intimidate us. We only focus on a select number of clients at a time, and we only tackle cases that we believe have merit.
The Fair Labor Standards Act
One of the most foundational pieces of legislature for workers across the country is the federal Fair Labor Standards Act. It defines a normal work week as 40 hours, sets the federal minimum wage, declares requirements for overtime work, and places restrictions on child labor. Additionally, it establishes the standard laws that affect both part-time and full-time workers for government employers and those in the private sector. When organizations violate these laws, employees may be able to file suit against them. An experience Fair Labor Standards Act lawyer at Florin Gray Bouzas Owens can help you determine if your rights have been violated.
What the Law Requires of Employers
The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) only applies to employers who have annual sales of at least $500,000 or who engage in interstate commerce. The courts have made the term “interstate commerce” broader so it can include the vast majority of workplaces. Now, sending United States mail to other states or using computers or calls to accept information from another state are all parts of interstate commerce. Very few employers are exempt from these laws. Small farms are specifically exempt because they use far less outside paid labor than other companies.
These sets of regulations act as protections for employees.
Legal Help for Florida Employees
It is possible to have an employer who must adhere to these laws but have employees who these laws don’t protect. For instance, freelance workers and volunteers have no protection under FLSA because they aren’t technically an employee of a specific organization. However, many companies misuse contract workers, so, if you feel an organization or employer has dealt with you unfairly, don’t hesitate to discuss your case with a Tampa employment attorney.
Exemptions may also include those the company considers executives, administrative employees, or professionals, but it would depend on their work within the organization.
Revisions and Additions
Because it is such a vital document for American workers and has been around for 80 years, legislators have changed and revised the Fair Labor Standards Act many times. One of the additions required men and women earn equal pay for work that requires the same skill, effort, and responsibility.
FLSA now also includes state and local hospitals and educational institutions, as well as covering most federal employees, state employees, political subdivisions, and interstate agencies.
It has expanded to set strict standards for deciding the stipulations for compensatory, or comp, time and to establish specific requirements about when employers must pay for overtime work.
When You Need a Wage and Hour Attorney
There are numerous reasons why you would file a claim for unpaid wages in Tampa. The difficulty is that every claim of this sort can become very complicated.
An attorney can help you look at all of your options. Filing a lawsuit may seem like the best choice, but an attorney can show you alternatives in case there is a better option that may be faster and less expensive than going to court. Your attorney can also give you a general idea about your chances of winning for each of your options, how much it may cost you, and what you could possibly gain.
Cost is the reason many people may be reluctant to hire an attorney, but we don’t believe that should deter someone who needs an employment attorney in Tampa. The firm of Florin Gray Bouzas Owens works on a contingency fee basis, which simply means that you don’t pay anything upfront. Your initial consultation is free, and you don’t pay unless you win your case.
Wage and Hour Law
One aspect of employment law centers around fair wages and time spent at work to earn those wages. Consider the following crucial information:
Federal law under the Fair Labor Standards Act states that employers must pay people who work more than 40 hours in one week one and one half times that amount for every hour they worked overtime. Some employees expect this perk, called time and a half, but there are ways companies try to avoid paying people overtime.
For instance, companies may agree to give you the same number of hours as paid time off when they ask you to work extra hours. If the pay is at the regular rate, they are avoiding paying you overtime. They may also have you work overtime one week and fewer hours the next, combining the two and paying you the regular rate for those two weeks. If in any given week you work over 40 hours, you deserve overtime compensation for those hours, no matter what happens the previous or following week.
Minimum Wage Violations
Wherever you are working, the law prevents employers from paying you less than a certain wage, called minimum wage. This wage tends to increase with inflation. In Florida, the minimum wage is one dollar higher that the federal minimum wage. Right now, the federal minimum wage is $7.25, so, your Tampa employer must pay you at least $8.25. If your employer is paying you less than that or if the paychecks are continuously late, you may consider filing a claim against your employer.
Employers must pay a penalty if they fail to pay you correctly. The amount of unpaid minimum wages that you claim is the difference between what your employer actually paid per hour and what they should have paid you per hour. Then, multiply that by the total number of hours that you worked and that is how much your employer owes you.
Tipped Employee Issues
One of the exceptions to the minimum wage rule is if you are a tipped employee. Your employer may lower your wage if you make enough money in tips to bring you up to the regular state minimum wage. In Florida, tipped employees have a minimum wage of $5.23 as of January 1, 2018.
A tip credit is the difference between the hourly wage of tipped employees and the standard minimum wage for the state. If the tip credit and the hourly wage do not add up to match the standard minimum wage, the employer must cover the difference.
According to federal law, if a worker spends more than 20% of his or her time doing activities where they cannot get tips, the employer has to pay the standard minimum wage for those hours, not the usual wage of tipped employees.
As restaurant workers know, this can get complicated because many employers use tip pooling. This is when each employee takes a portion of his or her tips and puts it in a pool. Then, a manger or owner divides up the money among the tipped workers. The employee does not have to put in more than is reasonable and has to be able to keep at least the minimum wage. Non-tipped workers – like bussers, janitors, or hosts – should not be part of the tip pool. However, many places force wait staff to “tip out” and pay them a percentage from their earnings, despite it being against FLSA.
There are a handful of classifications to clarify what counts as a tip. The payment must be voluntary, the customer must have freely determined it, and the customer has the right to decide who gets the tip.
Improper Classification as Independent Contractor
One of the tricks that some businesses employ to avoid paying employees a living wage, or having to provide benefits, is by calling all their workers independent contractors. The law doesn’t entitle independent contractors to overtime pay. In fact, FLSA doesn’t protect them at all.
However, if most of your income comes from a single company, the law would most likely see you as an employee of that company. Some courts also tend to group workers with higher pay and skill as independent contractors. If you work consistent hours every day under a supervisor, you are likely not a contractor and your employer owes you overtime if you worked for more than 40 hours.
As mentioned above, there can be complications when determining who is exempt and who is non-exempt. Three of the main types of employees who are exempt are executive, administrative, and professional workers. To be an executive worker you have to manage others as your main duty and, along with that, have the ability to hire, fire, and direct people. You also have to have a salary of at least $455 per week.
For administrative exemption your main job must be office work for management or administration. You must mostly use your own discretion and judgment at work and make at least $455 per week. To qualify as a professional worker, you have to be doing work focused in creative fields or that requires advanced knowledge. You also must make at least $455 per week.
There are many other types of workers who are exempt from coverage under the Fair Labor Standards Act including outside salespeople, computer employees, and other miscellaneous workers.
There are many ways that your employer could be guilty of not paying you required wages. It could come in the form of unpaid breaks, unpaid overtime, minimum wage violations, and many more.
In Florida, if your employer has not been paying you in any way, the courts may award you the amount they owe. You need to send you employer a notice saying you are intending to file a lawsuit and then give them 15 days to settle your claim. If they do not, you can take them to court.
What to Do Now | Work with Our Employment Attorneys
If you discover that your employer isn’t paying you fairly or your employer is mistreating you in some illegal way, contact Florin Gray Bouzas Owens. We only accept a small group of clients, so we can give your case the attention it deserves. To find out if your case qualifies as unfair treatment by an employer, reach out to the Tampa wage and hour lawyers at Florin Gray Bouzas Owens for a free consultation with one of our experienced attorneys to see what we can do for you.