Written by attorney Joseph Maus

The Top 5 Ways Employers Get Around South Florida Overtime Wages Laws

Many people work overtime without the proper compensation because employers try to get around the overtime wage laws. In fact, the Department of Labor estimates that approximately 70 percent of employers are not complying with the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). This Act, in effect since 1937, requires non-exempt workers to be paid overtime wages if they work more than a standard 40 hour work week. The following are the top 5 ways that employers try to bend the South Florida overtime wage laws: 1. Misclassifying Employees as Exempt Workers (Job Title and Salary) - Because the FLSA states that exempt employees are are not entitled to receive overtime pay, employers sometimes give their workers titles that imply that they are in different status than they actually are. The FLSA exemption rules can be confusing, but be assured that exemptions have nothing to do with a job title or job description. In addition, employees are often paid a salary instead of a hourly wage so the employer can avoid paying overtime. Being paid a salary, however, may not make you exempt from overtime wage compensation. 2. Unpaid Compensable Time - Many companies require workers to do "little" things off-the-clock. They often don't compensate employees for these extras, but the time spent on these tasks can add up. Think about the times you have answered company emails or phone calls while on your lunch break, before you clock in, or after you clock out for the day. In addition, if you are required to put on or take off a uniform or personal protective equipment, come in early or stay late for a change-of-shift-meeting, or set up and clean up your work area, you may be entitled to your regular wages for the extra time you are spending on these tasks. 3. Comp Time Instead of Overtime Pay - Sometimes employers will give non-exempt workers time off in lieu of overtime pay. This compensatory time is usually referred to as "comp time." An example of this would be when a company offers comp time during a busy period, which the employee can take after the work has slowed down. The employee, however, may be missing out on the 1.5 times pay they should have received in wages instead of comp time. Comp time is legal, but should be given in the same increment as overtime wages would have been - at time-and-a-half per hour. 4. False Reporting - Many companies will not permit overtime or pay for it without advance authorization, so they refuse to count and pay for overtime hours worked. The FLSA, however, requires non-exempt employees to be paid for any overtime they put in. 5. Improperly Calculated Overtime Pay - Often, employers pay on a bi-weekly basis. For example, an employee may work 50 hours in one of those weeks and 30 during the other week. The employer will add the two weeks together and average the employee's hours at 40 per week. Under the FLSA, however, the employee in this scenario would be entitled to overtime compensation for the 10 extra hours worked during the 50 hour week. In fact, the FLSA says that all work over 40 hours in a workweek must be paid at a rate of one and one-half times the employee's regular hourly rate. This applies to non-exempt employees whether they get paid weekly, bi-weekly, semi-monthly or on a monthly basis. Don't be afraid to stand up for your rights. The FLSA prohibits an employer from punishing or firing an employee who has asserted his or her rights to overtime wages.

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