Are you Unknowingly Violation Wage & Hour Law
Many employers think that if they write a disclaimer and have the employees sign it, they can get out of paying employees for all kinds of wages. Employers say things like:
- My new hires sign an agreement that says that they are aware that they will not be paid time and a half for overtime.
- My employees have to sign a disclaimer that states they won't be paid for mandatory training.
Many employers engage in the following practices not realizing how much it would cost them if they were reported to the Department of Labor:
- Employees are forced to clock out because of a "no overtime" policy, but expected to continue working until the job is finished.
- Employees are allowed sit at their desks and work through an unpaid lunch.
- Unauthorized overtime is not paid.
An employer's policy or written disclaimer will never negate the law. In addition, absence of knowledge doesn't absolve an employer of their legal obligations.
The FLSA is associated with the largest exposure to liability for employers. The remedy for wage and hour violations could equate to back pay, liquidated damages, attorney's fees, court costs & much more...
Due to the large amount of damages plaintiffs and their attorney's can recover, the frequency with which employers seem to violate the FLSA, and the numbers of employees that can become involved with this type of lawsuit, this may as well be dubbed the "Lottery Lawsuit"! If willful violations of the act are found, they can go back into the employer's records for three years. That means a three year long violation could have effected past employees. Class action lawsuits are popular with FLSA claims and once certified by a court, a notice is sent to all potential class members allowing them to opt in. Money, anyone?
Avoid liability by not engaging in the following practices with nonexempt employees:
- Not paying for overtime hours worked because of a signed disclaimer.
- Not paying employees for unauthorized work. Examples include an employee who begins work early, stays late, takes work home or works through a lunch break.
- Not paying for waiting time. Examples include an employee who waits for instructions to be given or reads a book while waiting for equipment to be repaired.
- Not paying for preparation or concluding time. Examples include changing in and out of a required uniform or cleaning equipment after a day's use.
- Not paying for training if it is during work hours, mandatory, and related to the employee's job.
- Paying compensatory time instead of overtime for private employers.
- Averaging out hours worked over a two week pay period to avoid paying overtime.
Always consult a knowledgeable human resources professional regarding employees. Staying compliant cost an employer a lot less than violations of the law.
Justine Lohelein, MBA, SPHR
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