If you’ve ever had to handle the stressful task of confronting your employer over unpaid wages, you’re not alone. As Memphis employment lawyers, our team here at Donati Law, PLLC can represent employees who have been systematically misclassified and underpaid, or forced to deal with another form of wage and hour violation.
Once you can prove that your employer engaged in this type of violation, you’ll likely be entitled to collect damages in the form of “back pay,” which should account for any past wages you were denied or illegally prevented from earning. But when exactly are you considered eligible for this form of financial recovery?
Understanding Wage & Hour Violations
Under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), any non-exempt employee is entitled to a standard minimum wage, as well as overtime pay for all hours worked beyond 40 in a given week. Most states also have their own regulations about wage and hour violations, and allow for legal recourse when your rights have been violated. The Wage and Hour Division of the U.S. Department of Labor is fully empowered to enforce the FLSA if necessary, even supervising the collection of back pay in cases where the employer refuses to comply.
Here are some of the most common forms of wage and hour violations:
- Employee misclassification. Some unethical companies will try to misclassify their non-exempt employees as “independent contractors,” with the goal of avoiding taxes and full employee benefits. Even if the misclassification wasn’t intentional on your employer’s part, it’s still illegal.
- Wrongful termination. When your employer illegally terminates you, either on a discriminatory basis or as retaliation for filing an EEOC complaint, you may be eligible to seek back pay for the time you would have worked.
- Unpaid overtime wages. Once you pass more than 40 hours in a week as a non-exempt employee, you are entitled to time-and-a-half pay. Because overtime is more expensive, your employer may try to avoid paying you these wages, either by fraudulently altering your timecard or claiming that you never actually worked the overtime.
- Failing to meet minimum wage. The federal minimum wage is $7.25 an hour, and while Tennessee doesn’t set its own state minimum wage, Memphis employers must still meet the federal guidelines for any employee classified as non-exempt.
How to Collect Your Back Pay
Most employers are unlikely to just give you the full back pay you’re owed, even when you can prove that you deserve it. However, because the FLSA is the law of the land, you have a recourse to hold them accountable for these lost wages. The statute of limitations for a back pay claim is 2 years when your wages were withheld by mistake – and 3 years if your money was withheld intentionally.
Back pay doesn’t only cover the wages that have been withheld from you in the past, either. Depending on your unique situation, it can also include pay increases that your employer failed to implement, as well as healthcare benefits or bonuses that you never received. In some cases, back pay can even cover court costs and attorney fees if you were required to hire an employment law attorney.
You may be able to collect back pay in one of these 3 scenarios:
- The Secretary of Labor chooses to file suit or obtains a formal injunction against your employer, often for systematic wage and hour violations.
- The Wage and Hours Division supervises you with the collection of back pay, after investigating your claim and interviewing your employer.
- You decide to bring a private wage and hour violation lawsuit against your employer.
Standing Up for Workers’ Rights
At Donati Law, PLLC, we’re committed to fighting for the rights of employees – so much so that we refuse to represent employers in these kinds of proceedings. Instead, we give our clients premium legal service and passionate advocacy for their wage and hour violation claims, striving to win back the wages they rightfully deserve.
If you believe that you’re entitled to back pay from an employer, call us at (901) 209-5500 to discuss your case with a skilled lawyer who cares.