One of the most common types of employment lawsuits is that of wage and hour discrimination. By law, employers must comply with certain federal and state requirements, but this is not always what occurs. You as an employee must understand what you are entitled to and what the laws are that are out there to protect you.
Wage and hour laws are in place to govern how much employers pay their employees and the hours that an employee must be compensated. These include common laws such as minimum wage and overtime, as well as child labor, meal, and break laws, however there are many other guidelines stipulated that must be followed.
While many people blindly go into a job assuming that their employer will fairly and accurately take care of their payroll, wage and hour discrimination happens. Hours are split on paychecks to avoid the necessity of paying overtime, minimum wage requirements are ignored, pay rates are differentiated by things other than skill, and employees are mandated to complete work off the clock.
Sometimes this neglect of meeting wage and hour requirements is blatantly obvious, while other times it is a sneaky loss of an hour or two each paycheck, adding up to thousands of dollars over the course of your employment, or you receive less pay than someone else doing your same job and you don’t even realize it.
Regardless if how it happened, if you were the victim of this kind of common discrimination, you have rights.
What Does Wage and Hour Discrimination Look Like, Exactly?
Wage compensation discrimination happens when multiple employees performing the same job don’t receive equal pay. According to federal law, if the job requires equal skills and responsibilities, as well as equal working conditions, it deserves equal pay. This includes salary, overtime opportunity and pay, holiday and vacation pay, bonuses, and all other benefits of the job.
This does not always happen, though, and discrimination often occurs because of gender or race. In fact, research has shown that, as recently as 2017, only 82% of women earned the same pay as men for the same work. This type of discrimination is often handled by other federal guidelines through the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).
When an employer determines the rate at which they pay an employee, they are allowed to take into consideration certain factors, including:
- The potential employee’s skillset, experience, education, training, etc. However, the skills required for the job are what the pay should be based on.
- The accountability that is required to perform the job.
- The physical and mental effort required to perform the job.
- The working conditions and potential hazards that encompass the job.
- The individual establishment where the job is performed.
All of these factors are used to determine whether or not wage and hour discrimination has occurred. Employers are allowed to differentiate pay based on merit, seniority, and production output, but the burden of this proof falls on them in a wage and hour discrimination lawsuit.
Multiple acts and titles are in place to protect employees from these types of discrimination, including, but not limited to, the Equal Pay Act, Title VII from the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, and the Americans with Disabilities Act.
In addition to pay and compensation, wage and hour discrimination can also occur when your employee does not follow the federal and state guidelines set up for things such as minimum wage, overtime, and other areas set up in the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).
The Wage and Hour Division of the United States Department of Labor has regulations set up to cover a wide range of potential discriminations, so it is important that you find an expert attorney who is knowledgeable in this area. The attorneys at Hershey Injury Law can help you to prove your case if you were the victim of any violation of the FLSA.
What Are Common Legal Problems in a Wage and Hour Lawsuit?
Beyond discrimination, most wage and hour lawsuits occur due to disputes about the fairness of an employee’s pay. This is usually in the area of unpaid overtime or wrongly paid overtime, vacation or medical leave, wage garnishment, or pregnancy leave.
It can also occur when an employee does not receive their proper wages after a wrongful termination, or with pay loss due to harassment or discrimination.
The most common lawsuits in this area include:
- Employer’s ignoring the federal and state minimum wage requirements,
- Incorrect classification of employees as exempt from overtime pay laws,
- Requiring employees to work “off the clock” to attend trainings, meetings, etc.
- Exempting employees from benefits due to their job title rather than job duties,
- Withholding wages due to discrimination or retaliation.
Who is Entitled to Wage and Hour Discrimination Protection?
The federal and state governments understand how important it is for you as an individual employee to have your livelihood protected. When employers are allowed to get away with unfair pay, rate and hour cutting, and other money-saving tactics, it has a domino effect on everyone else.
Employees who live paycheck to paycheck to make ends meet often end up having to rely on government assistance. This may not happen if they were paid fairly.
Because of this, and other consequences of unfair wage and hour discrimination, Title VII was instituted. This law covers all private employers, state and local governments, and educational institutions that employ 15 or more people.
Title VII also covers labor organizations and employment agencies, as well as places that enact training and apprenticeships. In short, you are most likely covered by Title VII protection, but there may be other laws that protect you as well.
One of the largest commissions that work to enforce equality and fairness at work is the EEOC. Their laws protect employees against discrimination, harassment, and unfair treatment in the workplace.
Rest assured that if your wages were violated by your employer, there is likely a law in place to protect you.
What Are Your Rights if You Were a Victim of Wage and Hour Discrimination?
If you feel that you have a dispute against your employer that they have not addressed adequately once you have brought it to their attention, you can file a claim with the Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division (WHD). They will investigate your claim and possibly provide your employer with penalties.
If this is not sufficient, though, or the WHD does not fix the problem, you can file a civil lawsuit against your employer. Since you will have the burden of proof to demonstrate that you were a victim of this discrimination, you should work with knowledgeable attorneys like those of us here at Hershey Injury Law to ensure that your claim has covered all of the necessary documentation.
Wage and hour disputes are often won or lost based on the extent of sufficient evidence. You should always keep your pay stubs, but you can also include your time cards or work logs, tax receipts and filings, any work-related receipts, and written statements from other employees who have similar or identical concerns.
Many employees delay or refuse to defend themselves and continue to face the wage and hour discrimination due to the fear they have of employer retaliation. They worry that they may lose their job or overtime potential, for example. However, employers are federally prohibited from firing an employee because they reported a workplace wage and hour dispute.
If you did report a dispute and were retaliated against, it is even more crucial that you contact an attorney to defend your rights.
How Are Wage and Hour Claims Resolved?
If the WHD cannot resolve the issue you have with your employer over your wage and hour discrimination and you have to take your case to court, a successful claim will usually result in damages awarded to you from your employer.
These damages will often cover the unpaid wages you never received previously, but they may also include additional bonuses such as the demand that the employer adjust their payment and hour policies to comply with the law, further investigation into the company, and possibly even termination of the person who failed to comply.
Terminated employees who were retaliated against because of the dispute may also have the opportunity to regain their lost position.
Why Should You Retain a Lawyer for a Wage and Hour Claim?
Once you contact the WHD of the federal government, you may be able to quickly resolve the matter if it was simply an oversight or misunderstanding on your employee’s side. But if this does not work, you may face retaliation, unfair termination, or other negative effects because of your dispute.
Retaining an attorney as soon as you foresee problems negotiating a fair agreement between you and your employer, even with the WHD’s assistance, will help you to not only defend your rights, but to understand what they are to begin with.
When you file a wage and hour claim, you will need to show substantial documentation, complete often complex paperwork, and prove your case against a larger company’s defense. Your employer will likely have at least one, if not more, attorney to defend themselves.
When you work with an attorney like those of us at Hershey Injury Law, you have the benefit of knowledge and experience as well as a lawyer who is looking out for your best interests.
If you were a victim of wage and hour discrimination, contact us today for a free consultation to see how we can help you get the wages and benefits that you are entitled to and prevent your employer from continuing to discriminate against you and others in the future.