Wage, Hour, and Overtime Disputes
Employment disputes involving wage, hour, and overtime issues can present costly disruptions for employers, and in many cases they can present risks for collective action and class action claims. If your company is being accused of underpaying its employees, it is important that you engage experienced defense counsel promptly.
Under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and various other federal statutes, employers can face lawsuits involving a broad range of issues in the realm of employee compensation. In these lawsuits, employers can be at risk for substantial liability, particularly when employees join together to pursue collective action or class action claims. In order to mitigate this risk, employers need to take a proactive approach to defending against their employees’ allegations, and they must engage defense counsel with specific experience handling federal wage, hour, and overtime matters.
Our employer defense attorneys have extensive experience representing companies in litigation under the FLSA, the Equal Pay Act (EPA), and other federal employment and anti-discrimination laws. With a practice that is nationwide in scope, we represent employers in federal jurisdictions across the country, and we are able to efficiently handle matters involving the U.S. Equal Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and other federal administrative and law enforcement agencies. Whether your company is facing allegations from a single employee or a class action lawsuit is threatening your company’s operations, our attorneys can use their experience to present an effective defense and avoid unnecessary liability.
Our Employer Defense Attorneys Handle All Types of Wage, Hour, and Overtime Claims
Wage, hour, and overtime disputes can involve various issues, each of which presents its own unique challenges in civil litigation. Our attorneys work to resolve these disputes as efficiently as possible and with minimal disruptions to our clients’ businesses. However, while settlements are often possible, in some cases trial litigation will be necessary, and when this is the case our attorneys rely on proven strategies to achieve favorable results in court.
We represent employers in all wage, hour, and overtime matters, including those involving:
Failure to Pay Minimum Wage
The FLSA establishes the federal minimum wage. The FLSA’s minimum wage provisions apply to all employees of covered businesses, which are those that have at least two employees and that have annual gross revenue of at least $500,000. The FLSA also applies to hospitals, nursing homes, and schools with at least two employees, and it applies to smaller employers whose employees are engaged in interstate commerce.
Minimum wage litigation under the FLSA can involve a number of different types of claims. This includes (but is not limited to) claims alleging:
- Payment of an hourly rate below the federal minimum wage
- Failure to adequately compensate employees who work for tips or commissions
- Improper deduction of operating expenses or other costs from employees’ wages
In addition to federal minimum wage claims under the FLSA, employers will often face state minimum wage claims. Many states have adopted minimum wages above the federal minimum wage, and state minimum wage laws often include additional requirements and protections as well.
Failure to Provide Overtime Pay
The FLSA also establishes the federal requirement for overtime pay. Here, too, state laws can impose additional requirements above and beyond employers’ federal obligations. As the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) explains:
“For covered, nonexempt employees, the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) requires overtime pay at a rate of not less than one and one-half times an employee’s regular rate of pay after 40 hours of work in a workweek. Some exceptions to the 40 hours per week standard apply under special circumstances to police officers and firefighters employed by public agencies and to employees of hospitals and nursing homes.
“Some states also have enacted overtime laws. Where an employee is subject to both the state and Federal overtime laws, the employee is entitled to overtime according to the higher standard (i.e., the standard that will provide the higher rate of pay).”
Overtime disputes frequently arise out of employees’ claims that they have improperly been classified as “exempt” from overtime pay. Disputes regarding the calculation of employees’ hours and pay are common as well. In federal and state overtime litigation, defenses often center around demonstrating that employers have consistently applied documented policies and procedures that comply with the law.
Paying Employees on a “Shift” or “Exception” Basis
One particular issue that shows up in a significant number of minimum wage and overtime cases is the payment of employees on a “shift” or “exception” basis. With “shift” pay, employees are paid for their scheduled shifts but not any time they may actually spend working before or after their shift starts. With “exception” pay, employees’ standard working hours are entered into the company’s timekeeping system by default, and it is up to employees to create exceptions for any additional time devoted to work activities. While neither of these systems is inherently unlawful, both present risks for wage, hour, and overtime claims; and, by their nature, many of these types of disputes lead to collective action and class action lawsuits.
Misclassification of Employees
Misclassification of employees is also a common allegation in wage, hour, and overtime litigation between employees and their employers. This includes misclassification of employees as independent contractors as well as misclassification of salaried employees as exempt from overtime pay.
- Misclassification of employees as independent contractors – Employees are eligible for the FLSA’s minimum wage and overtime protections, and employers must collect and remit FICA taxes in relation to employee compensation. Disputes often arise out of workers’ claims that they have been improperly classified as independent contractors.
- Misclassification of salaried employees as exempt from overtime pay – The federal overtime exemption applies only to certain types of salaried employees. When accused of misclassifying employees as exempt, large employers can be at risk for significant financial liability.
Equal Pay Act Violations and Other Wage Discrimination Claims
Pay discrimination claims under the Equal Pay Act, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA), and other federal anti-discrimination laws can also present significant liability risks for employers. Each of these laws has different standards for applicability and coverage; and, while there are many potential defenses available, employers must approach these disputes strategically in order to avoid significant liability for back pay and other damages.
Employment Contract Disputes
Among other issues, employment contract disputes will often involve disagreements related to contracted employees’ rights to pay, stock options, benefits, and other forms of compensation. While the terms of the parties’ employment contract should control, ambiguities and questions of enforceability can lead to protracted disputes, and employers will often need to engage experienced outside litigation counsel in order to achieve positive results.
Defense Strategies in Federal Wage, Hour, and Overtime Litigation
For employers, defending against wage, hour, and overtime claims presents legal, practical, and financial concerns. At Oberheiden P.C., we work to achieve favorable resolutions that not only minimize our clients’ liability, but that also help preserve their workforces. Depending on the specific issue(s) involved, there are various defense strategies that can prove effective for defending against allegations under the FLSA and other pertinent statutes. When defending employers in litigation, we utilize defense strategies including:
- Applicability and eligibility issues – Not all statutes apply to all employers, and not all employees are eligible for the same protections. In many cases, we are able to defend employers by demonstrating that the laws that they are alleged to have violated do not apply.
- Statutory exceptions to employers’ obligations – Even when a statute applies, there are still various exceptions that can insulate employers from liability. In particular, the FLSA, EPA and other federal anti-discrimination statutes carve out multiple scenarios in which employers are not at risk for liability, and affirmative defenses will be available in some cases as well.
- Statutory compliance – Another defense strategy that our attorneys are able to utilize in many cases is to demonstrate that employers have complied with the law. Employees’ allegations of wage, hour, and overtime violations are frequently misguided; and, when this is the case, their claims should not move forward.
- Class certification issues – When faced with employee class action lawsuits, raising issues with regard to class certification can serve as an effective defense strategy as well. The federal rules pertaining to class action lawsuits are extraordinarily complex, and our attorneys are intimately familiar with the types of issues and defenses that can arise in these cases.
- General civil litigation defense strategies – In addition to these types of specific defense strategies, general civil litigation defense strategies apply in wage, hour, and overtime cases. From making strategic use of discovery and pretrial motions practice to arguing against the sufficiency of employees’ evidence at trial, our attorneys can call upon their centuries of combined litigation experience to protect your company by all means available.
Contact the Employer Defense Lawyers at Oberheiden P.C.
If your company needs legal representation for a wage, hour, or overtime dispute, we encourage you to contact us to discuss your company’s defense strategy. To speak with one of our senior attorneys in confidence, call 888-680-1745 or request a free case assessment online today.