Stop Your Employer From Stealing Your Overtime Wages
We abolished slavery in this country in 1865. You don’t work for free. Your labor is an extension of yourself and requires you to sacrifice time with friends and family or doing the things you enjoy. In exchange for your labor, you have a right to be paid the wages you’ve earned and that are required by law. If your employer isn’t paying you the wages you’re owed for your regular and overtime labor, CONTACT MY FIRM, Mansour Law, LLC, online or call 610-936-6863 for a FREE CONSULTATION. My team is ready to help!
What Wages Are You Legally Entitled To?
The wages you are legally entitled to come from two (2) potential sources: your agreement with your employer and certain laws passed by Congress and the Pennsylvania legislature.
When you agree to work for an employer, you basically form a contract with your employer. Under that contract, you agree to provide your labor in exchange for a set wage. Your wages can be based on the number of hours you work or you can be paid a fixed salary. If your employer accepts the benefits of your labor, but refuses to pay you the wages it agreed to pay, that is a breach of contract.
Can An Employer Deduct The Costs Of Mistakes, Shortages Or Property Damage From Your Pay?
In Pennsylvania, the answer to this question is likely “no.” The Pennsylvania Code only authorizes certain deductions “for the convenience of employees.” Examples of these lawful deductions include deductions for health insurance premiums, pension plans, and union dues. The Pennsylvania Code does not list mistakes, shortages, or property as an acceptable cause for deductions. However, if you agree, either verbally or in writing, to let your employer make these deductions from your pay, then your employer will likely be allowed to do so.
What Is Overtime Pay?
Under United States and Pennsylvania law, most employers are required to pay certain employees overtime pay for every hour they work over 40 hours per week. For every hour of overtime that you work, your employer must pay you 1.5 times your regular rate of pay (for example, your hourly wage).
What Laws Govern Overtime Pay?
There are two laws that require employers to pay overtime pay to certain employees: a federal law called the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”) and a state law called the Pennsylvania Minimum Wage Act (“MWA”). These laws are virtually identical to each other and have the same requirements regarding overtime pay.
Who Is Entitled To Overtime Pay?
As a general rule, all employees are entitled to overtime pay for each hour worked in excess of 40 hours per workweek. However, there are three important exemptions from this general rule in the FLSA and MWA:
- Executive Exemption: to satisfy this exemption, you must: (1) be paid an annual salary of at least $35,568; (2) have as your primary duty the management of your employer’s company or a division within your employer’s company; (3) regularly supervise at least two full-time employees; and (4) have authority to hire or fire employees. Examples of employees who may satisfy this exemption include the CEO, human resources director, department supervisor, or office manager.
- Administrative Exemption: to satisfy this exemption, you must: (1) be paid an annual salary of at least $35,568; (2) perform office or non-manual work directly related to the management or general business of your employer; and (3) exercise discretion and independent judgment with respect to “matters of significance.” Examples of employees who may satisfy this exemption include academic advisors, insurance adjusters, and consultants.
- Professional Exemption: to satisfy this exemption, you must be paid an annual salary of at least $35,568 and either: (1) have as your primary duty work requiring knowledge of an “advanced type” in a field of science or learning customarily acquired by a prolonged course of specialized instruction and study; or (2) have as your primary duty work requiring originality or creativity in a recognized field of artistic endeavor. Examples of employees who may satisfy this exemption include lawyers, doctors, accountants, and actors.
If you fall under any of the above exemptions, your employer is not required to pay you overtime pay under the FLSA or MWA.
Determining whether you are an exempt employee is a difficult task and requires a close look at your particular circumstances. If you believe you’ve been misclassified under one of the exemptions above and are entitled to overtime pay, you should contact an experienced wage and hour lawyer immediately.
Can An Employer Avoid Paying You Overtime Because You’re Paid A Salary?
Not necessarily. Although paying an employee on a salary basis is necessary to satisfy one of the above exemptions, it is not, by itself, sufficient. In other words, just because you are paid a salary doesn’t mean you are exempt from overtime pay. If you do not satisfy all the requirements of one of the above exemptions, your employer must pay you overtime pay, even if you’re paid a salary.
Are You Entitled To Overtime Pay If You Are An Independent Contractor?
Generally, no. The FLSA and MWA only require employers to pay employees overtime pay. However, some employers intentionally misclassify employees as independent contractors in order to avoid paying them overtime pay. The basic test for whether you are an employee or independent contractor is the amount of control your employer has over your work performance. If your employer controls how, when, and where you perform your job, you are likely an employee. On the other hand, if you own your own business, set your own schedule, and decide how and when to perform your work, you are likely an independent contractor.
Figuring out whether you are an employee or an independent contractor can be confusing. If you believe your employer has misclassified you as an independent contractor in order to avoid paying you overtime, you should consult an experience wage and hour lawyer right away.
What Can You Do If Your Employer Refuses To Pay You The Wages You’ve Earned?
Under the Pennsylvania Wage Payment & Collection Law (“WPCL”), your employer is required to pay you all wages and benefits you’ve earned (including overtime pay) on regularly scheduled paydays. The WPCL doesn’t create your right to wages (that right comes from your agreement with your employer or the FLSA/MWS), but it gives you a legal mechanism by which you can recover unpaid wages. If your employer violates the WPCL by withholding your earned wages and benefits, you can sue your employer to recover those unpaid wages, plus an additional 25% of your unpaid wages as “liquidated damages.” However, you can only recover “liquidated damages” if your employer withholds your wages for more than 30 days after your last regular payday.
Can You Sue Your Employer For Not Paying You Overtime Pay?
Yes. Both the FLSA and MWA allow you to sue your employer for not paying you overtime pay. In addition, you can also sue your employer under the WPCL for unpaid overtime. In order to recover, you must file your FLSA lawsuit within two years of your employer’s failure to pay (three years if your employer willfully violated the law). Your WPCL lawsuit must be filed within three years of your employer’s failure to pay.
What Kinds Of Damages Can An Unpaid Wages Lawyer Obtain For You?
If you successfully sue your employer for unpaid overtime under the FLSA, you can recover the following damages:
- Back pay: This amount is equal to all the unpaid overtime you are owed
- Liquidated damages: This amount is equal to your back pay award. However, if your employer can prove that it acted in “good faith” and reasonably believed it was not violating the FLSA, you cannot recover liquidated damages.
- Costs and Reasonable Attorney’s Fees: If you are successful in your FLSA lawsuit, you may also be able to recover the costs of bringing the case and your attorney’s fees.
If you successfully sue your employer for unpaid overtime under the Pennsylvania MWA and WPCL, you can recover the following damages:
- Back pay: This amount is equal to all the unpaid overtime you are owed
- Liquidated damages: This amount is equal to an additional 25% of your back pay award. However, you can only recover liquidated damages when wages remain unpaid for more than 30 days past the regular payday.
- Costs and reasonable attorney’s fees: If you are successful in your MWA/WPCL lawsuit, you may also be able to recover the costs of bringing the case and your attorney’s fees.