Employment law issues can be very diverse and cover nearly every aspect of a person's employment relationship – from salary to promotions to termination. One of the most important aspects of employment, from the employee's perspective, is obviously wages. Clients want to know whether they are being paid as much as the next person, are they being paid the right amount, and are they being paid for all of the work they do. These types of concerns are often referred to as "wage and hour" issues, and there are laws that specifically govern when and how much employees should be paid.
In recent years, the number of wage and hour claims that are being filed has steadily increased, with no signs of slowing down. There are many opinions as to why this is, but the most important thing to understand, as an employee, is how to recognize a potential violation, so that you can obtain the legal assistance you need to protect your rights.
What are "wage and hour" claims about?
If an employer fails to pay its employees the current minimum wage or to pay proper overtime compensation to its nonexempt employees, they are violating federal law. The Federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) is a federal statute that establishes the requirements for paying certain employees. Included in those requirements is paying at least the federal minimum wage, as well as, paying "time and a half" for any time over 40 hours per work week. The current minimum wage is $7.25 per hour. It is also a violation of the FLSA for an employer to take any type of retaliatory action against an employee who complains about his or her salary or overtime pay.
Many states also have their own laws regarding wage and hour requirements. Alabama, along with several other states, follows the FLSA with regard to these provisions. When these types of violations occur, they can either be reported to the Wage and Hour division of the United States Department of Labor, or a lawsuit can be filed.
The significant rise in wage and labor claims
The Federal Judicial Center, the education and research agency of the United States federal courts, recently released statistics showing that, between April 1, 2013 and March 31, 2014, there were more than 8,100 federal wage-and-hour lawsuits filed in the United States. This was an increase of more than five percent from the same period a year before. These numbers do not include the state wage-and-hour lawsuits filed under state-specific labor laws.
Experts who have analyzed the data believe the rise is showing no sign of waning. Instead, they believe the trend is likely to continue for the foreseeable future. One reason for the rise, is the fact that employees are becoming much more aware of their rights with regards to wage and hour issues. Consequently, employees who are being treated unfairly and whose rights are being violated by employers are more likely to seek the assistance of an employment attorney now than they were even a few years ago.
The good news is that the ever-present threat of lawsuits has begun to prompt employers to make long overdue changes to the way they run their businesses and to begin compensating employees appropriately.
If you feel your rights regarding your wages or overtime compensation have been violated, or if you have any questions regarding your employment rights, please contact Wrady & Michel, LLC, either online or by calling us at (205) 265-1880.