5 Steps to take when your employer is withholding overtime wages

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Article Written By: Matthew Coffman of Coffman Legal

A 40-hour work week is long enough, and overtime pay may still not make up for how tired you feel after working more than that amount. Unfortunately, not all employers and managers are honest, so they may try to withhold your overtime pay. Luckily, you do not have to keep working for free if you follow these steps.

1 – Understand what you are entitled to

 Hourly, non-exempt employees who work over 40 hours in a week should receive the equivalent of one-and-a-half times their hourly wage for each overtime hour. For example, if your regular hourly rate is $10 per hour and you work 44 hours in a workweek, then you should be paid $15 per hour for each hour you work over 40 in that workweek. In this example, the employee’s weekly pay would be $460 because they receive $10 per hour for their first 40 hours worked and then $15 per hour for each hour worked over 40 in a workweek.

However, there are exemptions to these regulations, so make sure you understand your employment status. Exemptions include executive, administrative, professional, computer, and outside sales employees who are paid a salary and meet certain criteria for their responsibilities. In addition, volunteers, seasonal employees, and independent contractors or freelancers may also not be covered by the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”). Remember, federal laws and regulations determine your eligibility, not your boss or manager so some individuals may be misclassified.

2 – Talk to your employer

If you notice you did not receive the proper amount of overtime pay, then you should calmly bring it up with your supervisor. Managers are human too, and mistakes happen. They may have incorrectly entered your information, or you may have even forgotten to clock in or out on a certain day. Remaining calm during the conversation is imperative to understanding the other side of the story.

If possible, try to keep a paper trail of the conversation. Whether it is email, a text, or some other medium, keeping a record of your complaint and your employer’s response will ensure you have a record of your conversation, which can help your case to prove that you are being denied overtime. Additionally, this step will protect you if your employer retaliates for you discussing the pay issue in the first place, as this is illegal under the FLSA.

3 – Understand their response

There are several reasons your supervisor may be denying you overtime pay. It may be an honest mistake, but typically not paying overtime wages is a way for employers to save money. Some ways managers do this is by taking time deductions for breaks employees may not be taking, not accounting for travel time, comp time (in which hours worked over 40 are applied to another week), and misclassifying employees as exempt or ineligible for another improper reason. If you think your employer is not being honest or is even denying you overtime, then you may be able to go to court for your money.

4 – Gather records

 You should always try and keep records of the amount of time you’ve worked so you can track your pay and ensure you’re being treated fairly. Do your best to hold onto any tickets you receive when you clock in and out or work schedules, as well as pay stubs. If you do not have these documents on hand do your best to find whatever records you can of the hours you worked when you were denied overtime pay. You will need proof to show that your employer violated the law, so any records of your time will help strengthen your argument.

5 – Consult with an employment lawyer

If you are being shortchanged on your overtime wages, or are having your overtime pay outright denied, then an employment lawyer may be your best chance to recover your hard-earned paycheck. Employment attorneys have the experience and knowledge of the laws governing employment practices to ensure that you are being treated fairly under the FLSA. They can approach your employer and take the necessary action to get you your money. If an employment attorney successfully proves your case, you may be entitled to receive the unpaid overtime wages, liquidated damages in an amount equal to the unpaid overtime, and attorney’s fees. It’s also important to note is that many employment lawyers offer free consultations.

Matthew Coffman is the founder of Coffman Legal, an employment law firm that represents employees in need of serious, dedicated counsel who will work tirelessly on their behalf.