Employers who don’t pay overtime or minimum wage in accordance with the law underpay workers by an estimated $15 billion a year, says the Economic Policy Institute. That’s more than the value of all of the property stolen in the U.S. in an average year in robberies, burglaries, and car thefts. 

All covered, non-exempt employees in the United States are entitled to overtime pay under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). Under the FLSA and Texas state law, employers must pay covered, non-exempt employees 1.5 times their usual hourly rate for overtime hours worked (hours in excess of 40 hours per week). Many employers use subversive tactics to reduce their payroll costs and prevent employees from pursuing rightful claims. For these individuals, long hours and a lack of pay can result in financial difficulties, decreased quality of life, and emotional stress. The employers who cheat their employees are acting illegally and can be held accountable for their unfair employment actions.

If an employer in Texas is not paying you on time or is failing to pay you the rightful wage for hours worked, you have the right to hire an Austin unpaid overtime lawyer and seek compensation. Employees who come forward are protected and can often obtain interest on any unpaid wages in addition to fair compensation. At Ross • Scalise Employment Lawyers, we protect employees who work hard yet struggle to make ends meet because of an employer’s illegal and unethical actions. Reach out to our attorneys today to learn more about how we can help you overcome your fair wage battle.

Who Is Covered Under Federal Minimum Wage Laws?

Regardless of your employment status, you are entitled to receive $7.25 per hour working at any covered job in the United States. You are a covered employee under FLSA if:

  • The company you work for makes at least $500,000 in gross sales volume per year.
  • You work at a health care facility or educational institution.
  • You work for a public agency.
  • You are a domestic service worker who earns at least $1,700 in a year from one employer or you work more than eight hours per week for an employer or employers.

Some individuals who do not meet this criteria but who do engage in interstate commerce or other certain related activities may also qualify for minimum wage. If you have any questions about qualifying for minimum wage, please seek advice from an employment lawyer in Austin, TX. You deserve fair compensation for the work you do on a daily basis.

Minimum Wage and Tipped Employees 

Any staff workers who make a living on tips, including servers, bartenders, and valets, must receive at least the minimum wage for hours worked, but they often receive their wages in a different way.

Employers of tipped employees may pay a standard $2.13 per hour as a cash wage. Employees should receive at least $7.25 per hour with the addition of tips via a tip pool or individual tips earned. If a tipped employee does not meet minimum wage for hours worked, employers are obligated to pay the difference.

Who Is Covered Under Federal Overtime Laws?

All non-exempt employees who qualify for coverage under FLSA also qualify for overtime pay. In the state of Texas, this means that you should receive at least $10.88 (time and a half pay) for any hours that you work that exceed 40 hours per week.

The rules for exemptions are narrowly defined, and employers must carefully categorize employees to maintain current standards. If you are not sure if you fall under the current legal definitions of exempt or non-exempt, consider speaking with a legal advisor.

Myths Regarding Overtime Pay

Employment laws are exceedingly complex. As a result, many employees trust their employers to treat them fairly. Often, employees reach out for help only when employers cross clearly defined lines regarding pay and overtime. Here are some of the most common myths that our Austin unpaid overtime attorneys have seen and should alert employees to a potential claim:

  • Salaried employees do not have to be paid overtime. Paying employees a salary does not always exempt them from receiving overtime. Titles and payment classifications may align with exemptions, but employees should carefully consider the Department of Labor’s guidelines to determine if they are receiving fair payment for overtime work. New laws may soon increase the number of employees who qualify for overtime pay.
  • An employer doesn’t have to pay for employee volunteer work. If you are working on the job, you should receive pay for your time. An employer does not have the right to ask you to work off the clock or to volunteer time for extra work. Furthermore, employers are required to ensure that employees are recording their time regularly and accurately so that they can provide fair compensation.
  • The employer must approve overtime work for it to be payable.  Some employers have policies that the employer must authorize overtime work for it to be payable, but that is not what the law says. An employer must pay overtime if it has reason to know that the employee worked more than 40 hours in a workweek, whether the overtime work was approved or not.
  • Employers can automatically deduct time for meal breaks. Some employers deduct time for meal breaks whether the employee actually takes a break or not. An employer may only deduct time for a meal break if the break is at least 30 minutes long and is not interrupted by work. For example, a secretary who eats at her desk while answering phone calls is not on a meal break and must be paid for that time.
  • Small companies are not regulated by the FLSA. Small companies that fail to meet the annual sales volume requirements or other criteria may still fall under the jurisdiction of the FLSA. For example, many companies sell goods outside of a particular geographical location and are, therefore, engaged in interstate commerce. Many small companies must adhere to federal laws on wage and overtime pay.
  • In most states, companies cannot provide time off instead of overtime.  With some exceptions, non-exempt employees must receive financial compensation for overtime work, not a substitute offering such as time off.
  • Companies don’t have to pay certain travel expenses. While employers do not have to pay for commuting travel, in most cases they must compensate employees for any travel that takes place for work purposes.

If your employer does not pay you for one of these reasons, you have the right to take action and obtain fair compensation. Do not assume your employer is treating you and other employees properly, particularly if you notice any of these red flags.

Filing a Claim for Minimum Wage and Overtime Pay in Texas

If your employer or former employer didn’t pay the wages you earned, you have the right to file a claim to recover the compensation your employer owes you. It’s a good idea to call an experienced overtime attorney to find out how we can help you make a claim in the private court system.

You can choose to use a government agency to make a claim. The federal Department of Labor and the Texas Workforce Commission process wage claims. These agencies are often understaffed and under budgeted. We believe that you may get a better result by hiring an attorney of your own.

Take action as soon as you suspect your employer has failed to pay you minimum wage and/or appropriate overtime for the hours you have worked. At both the state and federal levels, claimants must adhere to strict time frames for submitting such claims.

If your Austin unpaid overtime attorney advises pursuing legal action against your employer, you may have an opportunity to obtain compensation including:

  • All unpaid wages and overtime,
  • Liquidated damages of the unpaid amounts owed, and
  • The costs associated with filing a successful claim (i.e. your employer will pay attorney fees and other costs).

In addition to helping employees with the financial burden of unfair wages, filing a claim may prevent the employer from treating other employees in the same way. You have the right to take action against an employer who fails to follow federal and state laws regarding minimum wage claims and overtime pay.

The Importance of Record Keeping

Occasionally, an employer’s poor record keeping is to blame for wage disputes. Your employer is responsible for keeping comprehensive records regarding payment information, hours worked, overtime, the date of payment, and other information.

To minimize the risk of wage disputes, keep an accurate record of your own time and routine wages as well as any correspondence you receive regarding requests for overtime, overtime pay, and the date you received payment. Keep all of your paycheck stubs. Tell your employer as soon as you notice any discrepancies in your own records. If your employer acknowledges your request and continues to refuse payment, don’t be afraid to take additional steps to secure compensation. Keeping accurate records may improve your case against employers who are unwilling to immediately resolve the situation.

Protections for Employees Who File Wage and Overtime Claims

Some employees avoid taking action against an employer because they fear retaliation. Employers who violate national wage standards may also use intimidation and scare tactics to prevent employees from stepping forward with a case. Some of the most common acts of retaliation against employees who file claims may include:

  • Giving write-ups or poor performance reviews
  • Retaliating against the employee when deciding raises and job assignments
  • Wrongfully firing an employee

Filing a wage claim is a protected act, and no employee should fear taking action because of employer retaliation. If you believe your employer will retaliate or has taken retaliatory action against you or someone else for addressing unpaid wages, you may have an additional case against your employer. Reach out to an attorney if you feel threatened by your employer after taking action to protect your rights as an employee.

Ross • Scalise Employment Lawyers | Austin, TX Unpaid Overtime Lawyers

If you believe that you are owed wages that you earned during the past three years, contact an attorney to discuss your options. Employers use many tactics to cover up their violations. Your attorney can help you understand the legal process, represent you in front of your employer, and potentially pursue additional legal actions to obtain justice on your behalf. Look for a lawyer who has a strong track record of wage and overtime cases and who is committed to helping you at every step.

At Ross • Scalise Employment Lawyers, we help protect your rights as an employee. You deserve to be paid for your work. For more information about our unpaid overtime and minimum wage claims services, call our office at 512-474-7677 today to talk to a lawyer.