What is the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA)?
The FLSA is a federal law in the United States that sets standards for minimum wage, overtime pay, child labor, and recordkeeping. Violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) can lead to legal and financial consequences for employers. Violations of the FLSA can be commonplace with negligent employers. Such FLSA violations include:
- Willful Violations of Minimum Wage:
- Paying employees less than minimum wage is an FLSA violation. The minimum wage in California is currently $15.50/hour, as of October 2023, for all employers. The minimum wage is set to increase to $16 on January 1, 2024. Some cities and counties have a higher minimum wage than the state’s rate.
- Overtime Violations:
- Failing to pay eligible nonexempt employees their required overtime rate for hours worked beyond 40 hours in a workweek. The standard overtime pay requirements are rates of one and a half times the employee’s regular rate of pay.
- Misclassifying Employees:
- Incorrectly classifying employees as exempt when they are actually nonexempt employees. Some employers do this to avoid paying their workers overtime or giving them meal and rest breaks. Exempt employees are typically salaried and must meet specific criteria for exemption. Nonexempt workers are typically hourly workers, but not always.
- Off-the-Clock Work:
- Requiring or allowing employees to work off-the-clock, which includes working before or after their scheduled shifts or during meal and rest breaks, without paying them proper compensation.
- Unauthorized Deductions:
- Making unauthorized deductions from an employee’s pay that reduce their earnings below the federal minimum wage, or reduce their overtime pay.
- Child Labor Violations:
- Violating child labor laws by employing underage workers in prohibited occupations or making them work restricted hours.
- Missed Paychecks:
- Failing to provide employees with timely and accurate paychecks during a pay period for all hours worked.
- Recordkeeping Violations:
- Failing to maintain accurate time and payroll records, as required by the FLSA. Proper recordkeeping is crucial for tracking the hours employees worked and to ensure compliance.
Consequences of FLSA violations can include:
- Owed Backpay Wages: Employers may be required to pay employees the wages they were owed, but did not receive due to violations.
- Wage and Overtime Pay Damages: Employers may be required to pay an additional amount equal to the backpay wages in the form of damages.
- Interest on Unpaid Wages: Employers may need to pay interest on the unpaid wages.
- Attorney’s Fees: Employers may be responsible for the employee’s attorney’s fees and court costs if the case goes to court.
- Civil and Criminal Penalties: In some cases, willful or repeated violations may result in civil or criminal penalties, including fines.
When employers violate the FLSA, employees may be entitled to various forms of damages as compensation for the violations.
- Unpaid Wages: Wage and hour laws establishes minimum wage for California workers. Employees who have not received their legal minimum wage payments or overtime pay can recover the unpaid wages they are owed. This amount is typically calculated as the difference between what the employee was paid and what they should have been paid under FLSA regulations.
- Interest on Unpaid Wages: According to the Fair Labor Standards Act, employers who have violated the FLSA may be required to pay interest on the unpaid wages. The interest rate is often determined by the U.S. Department of Labor.
- Attorney’s Fees and Legal Costs: If employees file a lawsuit and win in a Fair Labor Standards case, employers may be responsible for paying the employee’s attorney’s fees and legal costs. This is meant to encourage employees to stand up for their rights under the FLSA – or find an employment lawyer who can do it for them.
- Civil Penalties: Employers who have willfully or repeatedly violated the FLSA may be subject to civil penalties, which can vary depending on the nature and extent of the violation.
- Criminal Penalties: In rare cases of extreme wage theft, fraudulent activities, or willful violations, employers may face criminal penalties, including fines and potential jail time.
It’s essential for both employers and employees to understand the FLSA rules and follow them. If employees believe their FLSA rights have been violated, they can file a complaint with the Wage and Hour Division of the U.S. Department of Labor or consult with one of the employment attorneys at Lawyers for Justice, PC.