Wage and Hour Claims

All workers in the United States are protected by the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), a federal law that sets basic protections for workers’ payment and hours worked. The FLSA is where we get a standard 40-hour work week, overtime requirements and the federal minimum wage.

The State of Utah has also enacted wage and hour laws.

Ordinary Hours

Under the FLSA, employees who are not exempted under the law must be paid for all of the time they work, regardless of whether the employee is hourly or salaried. Time an employee spends working off the clock or away from the normal workplace is still “working time” for which the employee should be compensated. Unfortunately, some employers frequently ask their workers to perform tasks without compensation.

Examples of work for which some employers – illegally – do not compensate employees include:

  • Misclassifying an employee as exempt when she is too junior to qualify.
  • Asking a worker to run errands for the employer on the way home.
  • Regularly asking workers to put on uniforms or special equipment before clocking in and take them off after clocking out.
  • Automatically deducting breaks from time cards, regardless of whether the break is taken.
  • Asking workers to take work home to meet a deadline.

Overtime Hours

Employees who who are non-exempt, must be paid overtime.   Under the law, they must be paid “time and a half” (1.5 times their normal wage) for any hours worked more than 40 hours a week. However, unless the workers are under 18, there is no limit on the amount of overtime employers may ask for. The overtime provision is created to keep employers from exploiting their workers by making it expensive for them to demand too much overtime.

However, because it’s expensive to pay significant amounts of overtime, some employers find ways to deny or hide it. They may pressure employees to work after they clock out, alter time cards or simply not pay the overtime and hope the employee doesn’t notice. These practices may be widespread, but that doesn’t make them legal.

Exempt Employees

It’s a common myth that employees are not entitled to overtime if they are paid with a salary rather than an hourly wage. In fact, you may be entitled to overtime even if you are a salaried employee. The type of work you do helps determine whether you’re exempt under the FLSA.

Exempted employees include:

  • People whose work is directly related to management of the business (managers, executives).
  • People whose work is directly related to the general business operations of the business (administrators, accountants, human resources).
  • Professionals who have special academic training (doctors, lawyers).
  • Certain kinds of computer workers.
  • Salespeople who work away from the employer’s main place of business.
  • People in a recognized creative or artistic field.

The federal Department of Labor recommends that employers determine whether an employee is exempt on a case-by-case basis, rather than tie exemptions to job titles or categories.

Tipped Employees

Workers at restaurants, hotels and other businesses where tipping is common are especially vulnerable to illegal behavior by employers. Common violations for waiters, busboys and other tipped employees include:

  • Paying employees less than the minimum wage for that category of employee
  • Deducting tips from employees’ paychecks
  • Charging waiters for “walk-outs” who did not pay for their meals.
  • Allowing managers to participate in tip pooling — that is, to pocket part of the employees’ tips. This includes mandatory gratuities.
  • Illegally shaving time off timecards.
  • Refusing to pay overtime for more than 40 hours a week of work.

If you believe you have a wage and hour claim.  Please contact us to discuss your case with one of our Utah employment lawyers.