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Is It Illegal To Not Pay Overtime? What Workers Should Know

What is Overtime?

Generally, overtime constitutes any time worked over 40 hours in a single workweek. The Fair Labor Standards Act, or FLSA, entitles employees covered by the Act to receive time-and-a-half (1.5x their rate of pay) for overtime work. Employers must adhere to the FLSA standards, ensuring that eligible workers are compensated for overtime. Employees concerned their employer is not properly paying overtime should track their hours to verify they are being paid correctly for overtime worked.

Importance of the Fair Labor Standards Act

The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) sets strict criteria for overtime pay in the U.S., requiring non-exempt employees to receive time-and-a-half for hours worked beyond 40 in a week, with eligibility determined by job duties, salary level, and payment method. Employers must include most forms of compensation in calculating the regular rate of pay for overtime and are obligated to keep accurate records of hours worked and wages paid. This regulatory framework ensures employees are fairly compensated for overtime, mandates transparency of rights through visible postings in workplaces, and enforces compliance through detailed record-keeping. Altogether, the FLSA promotes a fair and equitable work environment.

How to Calculate Overtime Pay?

Hourly Employees

For hourly workers, overtime is straightforward—any hours worked over 40 in a week are paid at one and a half times the regular hourly rate. 

Salaried Employees

For salaried employees eligible for overtime, the calculation involves converting the salary into an equivalent hourly rate and then applying the overtime multiplier for hours worked over 40 in a week. 

Who Is Eligible for Overtime Pay? 

Most hourly workers are eligible for overtime pay, but there are exemptions. It’s important to understand which category you fall into.

Exempt employees

Exempt employees are not eligible for overtime pay. This category generally includes professionals, executives, outside salespeople, and certain administrative roles. Exemption status is determined by specific job duties and salary thresholds.

Nonexempt employees

These employees are eligible for overtime pay. Nonexempt status typically applies to hourly workers, but many salaried workers are also nonexempt, depending on their job duties and salary.

How do Employers Violate Overtime Laws?

Misclassification of employees 

Some employers may incorrectly classify workers as “exempt” from overtime, even when their job duties and salary do not meet the criteria set by the FLSA. This misclassification can deprive employees of the overtime pay they rightfully deserve.

Excluding overtime hours on purpose when calculating pay

In some cases, employers may intentionally fail to include hours worked beyond the standard workweek when calculating pay, effectively denying employees their earned overtime.

Requiring workers to do additional work while not working on the clock

Employers might request or imply that employees finish tasks or participate in work-related activities without clocking in or after clocking out, leading to unpaid overtime hours.

Utilizing round-down time clocks

Some businesses use timekeeping systems that round down employees’ clock-in and clock-out times, which can result in lost overtime pay overtime, especially when minutes add up.

Denying overtime pay based on the employee’s title in the company

An employee’s title does not exempt them from overtime pay if their actual job duties and compensation qualify them for overtime under the FLSA. Employers cannot deny overtime based solely on titles like “manager” or “supervisor.”

Keeping inaccurate records

Employers are required to keep precise records of hours worked for all employees. Inaccurate record-keeping can lead to unpaid overtime and violations of the FLSA.

What Are the Employer Penalties for Not Paying Overtime?

Monetary penalties

Employers found in violation of the FLSA’s overtime provisions may be required to pay back wages owed to employees, along with additional fines and penalties imposed by the Department of Labor.

Lawsuits

Employees can file lawsuits against employers for unpaid overtime. If the court rules in favor of the employees, the employer may be ordered to pay the owed wages, legal fees, and most often additional damages.

Criminal prosecution

In severe cases of willful violation of the FLSA, employers could face criminal charges, leading to further fines and even imprisonment.

Damage to reputation

Violating overtime laws can harm an employer’s reputation, affecting their ability to attract and retain talented workers and potentially leading to customer loss if the public becomes aware of their unfair labor practices.

Case Study: Southeast Connections Overtime Case 

On September 13, 2023, LAW Attorneys Steve Wolfe and Missy Torgerson filed a lawsuit against Southeast Connections, LLC, alleging violations of federal labor laws. The lawsuit centers on the claim that the company failed to pay wages to its employees for hours worked off the clock. This includes drive time from the worksite back to the shop at the end of the day, during lunch breaks, and during pre-shift and post-shift work.

Detailed Allegations

The named plaintiffs in the lawsuit, a foreman and a laborer, allege that they, along with others in similar roles, were not compensated for work performed off the clock. This unpaid work included time spent driving from job sites back to the company’s shop, working through lunch breaks, and engaging in necessary pre-shift and post-shift activities. The lawsuit identifies affected positions that include, but are not limited to, laborers, operators, CDL drivers, pipefitters, and fuse/fitters, and was filed as a putative collective action.

Legal Claims and Objectives

The legal action seeks to recover damages for the past three years, including compensation for unpaid overtime, unpaid minimum wages, and liquidated (double) damages, among other remedies provided under federal law. The firm aims to address the grievances of Southeast Connections’ employees who worked without pay.

Collective Action Complaint

Filed in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia, the lawsuit by plaintiffs Brandon Stallworth and Jahleel Wilson underscores the alleged requirement to work off the clock without pay. The detailed complaint alleges systemic unpaid drive times and additional work at the shop before and after shifts, including missed lunch breaks, as part of the uncompensated labor.

The lawsuit currently requests the court to conditionally certify it as a collective action under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), which mandates overtime pay at a time-and-a-half rate for work exceeding 40 hours per week for many employees. Conditional certification would enable the court to require the employer to provide information about other potentially affected employees, who would then receive notice of the lawsuit and an opportunity to join in seeking any unpaid overtime wages owed to them.

Significance and Legal Recourse

This case emphasizes the importance of legal intervention in enforcing workers’ rights. By pursuing collective action, the lawsuit aims to hold Southeast Connections, LLC accountable for its alleged failure to comply with federal overtime wage laws, offering a potential path to justice and compensation for affected employees.

If you have been a Southeast Connections employee at any time since September 13, 2020, and you worked off the clock during drive time, before or after your shift, or through lunch breaks, you may be eligible to join this lawsuit.

If you’re interested in learning more about the lawsuit or your legal rights, please call this law firm at (470) 823-4000 to speak to one of the attorneys representing the plaintiffs in this case.

For those who believe they may have been similarly affected, our law firm has opened its doors for consultations, underscoring its commitment to fighting for fair labor practices and ensuring that employees receive the wages they are due under the law.

Final Thoughts: Stay Informed and Empowered

Knowledge is power. Staying informed about your rights regarding overtime pay can help you ensure that you’re being compensated fairly for your hard work. If you’re unsure about your eligibility or believe you’ve been wronged, seeking legal advice can be a valuable step in protecting your rights.

By understanding these key points about overtime pay laws in Georgia, workers can better navigate their employment rights and ensure they are fairly compensated for all the hours they dedicate to their jobs.

If you suspect you’re not being compensated fairly, it’s time to take action. Contact a trusted employment law attorney today to discuss your situation and explore your options.

Remember, every minute you wait could be costing you valuable earnings. Call us at (470) 823-4000 to schedule your consultation with our legal team and ensure you’re receiving every dollar you deserve for your hard work.

Frequently Asked Questions: 

Is unpaid overtime illegal in the US?

Yes, unpaid overtime is illegal for non-exempt employees under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).

What is the new overtime rule for DOL 2023?

The new DOL overtime rule for 2023 increased the salary threshold for exemption from overtime eligibility, requiring detailed examination for applicability.

What was the overtime rule change?

The overtime rule change involved updating the salary threshold for exempt employees, making more workers eligible for overtime pay.

Are we forced to work overtime?

Employers can require overtime, but it must be compensated, especially for non-exempt employees, according to federal and state laws.

When did the new overtime rules start?

The latest update to overtime rules started in 2023, following announcements and regulatory updates by the Department of Labor.

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