The FLSA Governs Minimum Wage & Overtime
Whether it’s a mistake or intentional, wage and hour violations are against the law. The Fair Labor Standards Act is the main federal law governing wage and hour regulations in the United States. Among other things, the Fair Labor Standards Act, or FLSA, guarantees the vast majority of American workers the minimum wage, currently set at $7.25 per hour. With few exceptions, every worker in the US is entitled to at least $7.25 for each hour of work.
The Fair Labor Standards Act also governs overtime wages in America. In America, overtime wages should be calculated as one-and-a-half times your normal rate of pay. Thus, if you usually make $12 an hour, your overtime wage should be $18 an hour. Overtime wages must be paid for all hours worked over 40 in a single workweek. That’s an important point – overtime is calculated on a weekly basis, not a daily basis.
Employers who break provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act can be held accountable. The Fair Labor Standards Act grants you the power to pursue the money you are owed by filing a private civil lawsuit on your own behalf. In most cases, pursuing legal action is the only way that workers can regain what they’ve lost out on to wage violations.
State Minimum Wage Laws
Many states have passed their own minimum wage and overtime laws. In most cases, these laws are more generous than the federal Fair Labor Standards Act, entitling workers in each state to higher minimum wages and overtime under more circumstances. These state-based wage and hour laws are controlling. You are always entitled to the more generous wage:
- Delaware – $8.75 per hour (increasing to $9.25 in October 2019)
- Pennsylvania – $7.25 per hour
- New Jersey – $8.85 per hour
New York’s current minimum wage is too complicated to contain in a single bullet point. Throughout most of the State, the current 2019 minimum wage is $10.40, but that changes for workers in New York City, Long Island and Westchester County. In Long Island and Westchester County, the minimum wage is now $11.00 per hour. The minimum wage in New York City depends on the size of the business you work for. For large businesses, with 11 or more employees, the minimum wage is currently $13.00. At smaller businesses, the minimum wage is $12.00. Not to mention that all of these numbers will change again on December 31, 2019, as the state works its way incrementally to a standard $15.00 per hour in 2021.
Am I Entitled To Overtime Wages?
Most American employees are covered under the protections of the Fair Labor Standards Act. Some jobs are excluded from overtime protections through explicit provisions of the FLSA, while other jobs are excluded because they are covered by different labor laws.
Not all workers covered by the Fair Labor Standards Act are entitled to overtime. Every worker whose job is covered by the FLSA is classified as either “exempt” or “non-exempt”; employees classified as exempt are not entitled to overtime pay, no matter how many hours they work in a single week.
White Collar Exemptions
Are you covered by the FLSA’s overtime protections? In most cases, that question comes down to the following three criteria. Note from the outset that you must meet all three of these criteria to be considered exempt. If you only meet two of the criteria, but not the third, you are likely entitled to overtime.
- How much money you make – workers may be exempt who make at least $23,600 per year
- How you get paid – workers may be exempt who get paid a salary, a minimum amount of compensation guaranteed every week, regardless of how much you actually work
- Your job duties – workers may be exempt who perform the duties of an “executive,” “professional” or “administrator”
These are known as white collar exemptions. To be exempt from the FLSA’s overtime provisions under one of the white collar exemptions, you must fulfill job duties that can be classified as “executive,” “professional” or “administrative.”
In most cases, executives have a higher level of discretionary power than other employees. Their responsibilities often have a large impact on the quality of the workplace and the success of the business. To qualify as an executive, you must:
- routinely supervise two or more employees
- management is defined as the primary task of your employment
- have some constructive input on personnel decisions, including hiring and firing
For the purposes of FLSA exemption status, teachers, physicians, lawyers, pharmacists, members of the clergy, engineers, architects, scientists and actuaries are all considered “professionals” under the law. Many creative employees, including actors, writers and musicians, are also considered to be professionals.
To qualify as a professional (or “learned professional”), you must:
- perform traditionally intellectual work
- perform work that requires advanced knowledge in a subject or field (in general, courts use the achievement of advanced degrees as a yardstick for this requirement)
Administrative employees serve as the engine that moves business operations. Examples include human resources employees, accountants, marketers, public relations workers and network administrators. To qualify as an administrative employee, you must:
- perform “non-manual” office labor
- perform work that directly relates to the general business operations of a business or its management
- exercise “independent judgment” on matters of significance
No matter which of these three categories you fall into, what you do at work is more important than what you’re called. Job titles don’t really matter much. As one example, a cashier who has been promoted to “store manager,” but has no impact on personnel decisions and spends most of their time at the cash register, would not be considered an “executive.”
Employee misclassification is almost certainly the most common wage and hour violation in America. Thousands of employees are misclassified as exempt “white collar” workers, even though they don’t fit the accurate definition. Sometimes, businesses make legitimate mistakes, accidentally classifying non-exempt workers as “executives,” “professionals” or administrators. In other cases, this is an intentional scheme to circumvent overtime laws.
Exceptions To The Minimum Wage
In most cases, American workers are entitled to a minimum wage of at least $7.25 per hour for their work. As we’ve seen, many states have passed higher minimum wages, and you are always entitled to the higher of the two wages. There are, however, exceptions to these rules.
Employees who regularly make over $30 per month in tips are considered “tipped” employees by the US Labor Department’s Wage & Hour Division. In most states, employers are permitted to take a “tip credit” in paying tipped employees, reducing the cash wage paid to a tipped worker in accordance with the amount of tips the employee received.
Under federal law, the lowest cash wage you can be paid as a tipped employee is $2.13 per hour. But here’s the trick – your cash wage and hourly tip rate must always add up to at least the federal minimum wage, $7.25 per hour. Note again that each state will have its own law on this subject, so your own tipped wage situation may be different.
Youth Minimum Wage
The FLSA outlines specific regulations for workers under the age of 20. In most cases, employers are allowed to pay these young employees a lower wage, $4.25 per hour, but only for a limited amount of time. After 90 calendar days, employers are required to pay youth employees the full federal minimum wage or the applicable state minimum wage. If an employee turns 20 at some point during the 90-day period, their wage must be increased immediately upon the change of age.
Contact An Experienced Attorney Today
It should be clear at this point that the Fair Labor Standards Act provides rigorous protections for employees, and rigorous standards for employers. In a perfect world, the strong protections of the FLSA would guarantee that every worker in America receives fair compensation for their labor. The reality, of course, is very different. Every day, hundreds of thousands of workers lose out on their hard-earned pay to wage and hour violations.
You can fight back. The FLSA provides you with an avenue of legal recourse if your employer is stealing from you. You may be eligible to pursue a private civil lawsuit against your employer, demanding accountability and back wages. This is your right as an American worker.
To learn more about your legal options, contact our experienced legal team today for a free, confidential consultation. We value your privacy. Everything you say to us will be maintained in the strictest of confidences. You can find more information at no charge and no obligation. Just contact our dedicated attorneys today for a free consultation.