One of the many reforms created by Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal was the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), a law that created many rights for workers who had previously suffered financial abuse by their employers. One of the most far reaching provisions was a section of the FLSA that requires employers to pay their workers overtime pay at the rate of 150% of their normal wage. Employers often attempt to circumvent this law, but language of the statute and regulations adopted by the United States Department of Labor are unusually clear in defining how the law is interpreted.
The basic rule
The FLSA requires every employer to pay every employee overtime at the rate of 150% of their normal wage for every hour worked in a week in excess of 40. The statute and Labor Department regulations identify certain classes of workers who are exempt from the mandatory overtime requirement. These employees are known as “exempt employees.” The most common type of exempt worker is a worker who performs non-manual work related to management of the company. Another common class of exempt employee is a “learned professional,” that is, a person who performs work that requires advanced knowledge that has been acquired by a prolonged course of study.
Ploys used to avoid paying mandatory overtime
Employers often use one of several tactics to avoid the mandatory overtime law. One common tactic is to give an employee a job title that sounds like a management position. The Labor Department regulations plainly state, however, that determining whether a worker is exempt must be based upon the substance of the work, not on the person’s job title.
Enforcing the FLSA
Any non-exempt employee who has been denied overtime pay in violation of the statute may sue the employer for back wages, punitive damages and attorneys’ fees. Anyone who may have been denied mandatory overtime pay may wish to consult an experienced labor attorney for advice on whether a lawsuit to recover the back pay is likely to succeed.