The Fair Labor and Standards Act of 1938 (FLSA) celebrated its 75 anniversary in 2013 and it is fast approaching its 76th year. Although it has been in force for all that time, employee awareness of their rights under the FLSA has only started to come into being in the last 10 years, and that is a matter of concern for a lot of employers.
Back in the day, exploitation of workers was rampant, and that included child laborers, which was the impetus the drove legislators to enact the FLSA in the first place. Today, a majority of the cases filed under the FLSA is for unpaid overtime for employees that were misclassified as exempt. The most common misconception by employers is thinking that if an employee is on a salary rather than hourly basis, that employee is exempt from overtime pay. The fact is, it is not as simple as that.
In 2013, more than 7,000 cases were filed with federal court for FLSA violations by lawyers who took on the cases on a contingency basis. This signals more than anything that there are numerous FLSA violations occurring, and employees are becoming more aware of what they are legally entitled to. And these cases do not even include the many other cases filed for discrimination and sexual harassment, which collectively are costing employers millions in damage payments.
While employers may not have intended to violate the FLSA, ignorance of the law is not a defense. If the employer cannot categorically prove that they pay all their non-exempt employees the mandated overtime pay for work over 40 hours a week (44 hours for live-in workers, and special conditions for certain populations) of work, then they are in violation of the FLSA.
If you believe that you have been misclassified as exempt or otherwise entitled to unpaid overtime, consult with an employment lawyer to determine if you are indeed entitled. As most reputable lawyers will take on an eligible case on a contingent fee basis, you have nothing to lose.