A correlation exists between the recent economic recession and the increase in wage and hour violations. As employers looked for ways to save money, they left many positions open and asked more of their staff. Misclassification of employees as exempt has been one common problem; in effect, this practice denies workers rightful overtime benefits. Wage and salary violations also relate to the failure to provide adequate breaks, minimum wage or tips.At both the federal and state level, there are agencies that investigate employment violations. In Pennsylvania, the Bureau of Labor Law Compliance in the Commonwealth’s Department of Labor & Industry enforces the state Minimum Wage Act. On the federal level, the Department of Labor investigates and enforces the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). In cases, where an employment practice affects many workers, a federal collective action lawsuit often becomes a means of seeking a remedy.
WAGE AND TIP VIOLATIONS
The minimum wage in Pennsylvania is $7.25 for most workers. For example, If an employer deducts for uniforms and work-related expenses it may be a minimum wage violation, if the impermissible deductions push the hourly wage below the state minimum.
For workers that receive more than $30 in tips per month, the minimum wage is lower but the employee must make enough tips to meet the full minimum wage or the employer must make up the difference. Tip income belongs to the employee and some schemes to pool tip income may not be lawful under the FLSA. In addition, if a server or bartender spends more than 20 percent of his or her time on maintenance or other tasks, that time might need to be paid at the state minimum rather than the lower tip rate.
SPOT A JOB MISCLASSIFICATION
The difference between non-exempt (hourly) and exempt (salaried) determines whether an employee receives overtime wages. The exempt classification applies generally to executive, administrative and professional positions. Just because a position requires an advanced degree, however, does not mean a position is exempt. Some of the duties that may make a position exempt include:
- Supervisory authority – the position requires employment decisions on hiring or firing workers
- Discretion – the position requires independent judgment in completing the job duties
- Advanced education – a graduate degree, such as a Masters or PhD in a specialized field
Overtime at one a half times the hourly wage must be paid when a non-exempt worker is on the clock more than 40 hours per workweek. If a company fails to pay proper overtime, one available remedy is a wage dispute lawsuit to collect back wages.
It is often difficult to spot wage and overtime violations. The way that an employer tracks hours may exclude some work time or you may be required to work through breaks. These small violations add up over time. If you have suspicions that you are not receiving adequate pay for your work, contact a Pennsylvania employment attorney.