Can my employer be penalized for not paying me overtime?

Under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), if an employer violates the overtime provisions, employees may either bring their own lawsuit or file a complaint with the Department of Labor. In either case, the potential penalties against the employer are substantial and rectifying the original problem by paying back overtime wages owed to employees is only one of the employer’s concerns.  Calculations of amounts due include the following:

1) Back Wages – payment of any overtime that an employee earned but was not paid.

2) Liquidated Damages – assessed at double the amount of back pay.

3) Shifting of Attorneys’ Fees – employer pays for employee’s attorneys’ fees.

4) Civil Penalties – if the violation is found to be willful or deliberate, a civil penalty of up to $1,100 per violation may be imposed.

5) Criminal Prosecution – possible in egregious circumstances in which willful or deliberate intent can be shown.

Employers should not forget, however, that the federal government is not the only level of government that has overtime laws. States have their own overtime laws, and these laws can be even more generous to employees than the FLSA. For example, in Massachusetts, the fine or penalty for a violation is not $1,100 as under the FLSA, but up to $25,000!  The employee can also win not just double back wages as provided under the FLSA, but treble back wages —as well as attorneys’ fees.

Even states that do not provide for treble damages may impose steeper fines or penalties. In Connecticut, fines can scale up to $10,000 per offense, be levied directly against corporate management and also may include substantial jail time—all for as little as $2,000 in unpaid overtime.

In New York, employers engaged in willful violations can be fined an additional amount up to one quarter of the unpaid wages and be required to pay the employee’s attorneys’ fees.  Company management that engages in willful misconduct also may be subject to misdemeanor charges for a first offense or felony charges for a second offense, with possible jail time up to one year and penalties up to $20,000.

Thus, employers should consider placing as much emphasis on compliance with state overtime laws as with federal law. Employers also should be aware that it is important to do a state-by-state analysis of the applicable laws, as most states have their own criteria and penalty schemes and employers should not simply assume that employees exempt from overtime under federal law will be exempt under state law. Given the penalties available in some states, the cost is worth the benefit of making sure that any overtime program is compliant on both the federal and state levels.

Questions about overtime laws and what you may be entitled to? Call Dan Newlin and Partners today at (407) 888-8000. In a free phone call, our staff can explain overtime laws, what you are entitled to when working over forty hours in a week, and what steps you can take if your employer refuses to pay you what Federal law requires you to be paid. Overtime laws are complex. You need a qualified and experienced law firm to protect your rights and get you all the compensation you are due. You need Dan Newlin & Partners by your side. Call us today.