Many of us have learned to do more with less as we climb out of the worst economic recession since the Great Depression. However, when such sacrifice is the result of wage and hour violations, an employee is protected under state and federal law.
Typically, however, it’s up to the employee to assert their legal rights to overtime. Joining co-workers in seeking advice from a NJ overtime lawyer can help you recover wages owed to you and your colleagues at work.
A new survey conducted by Harris Interactive found half of U.S. workers believe that their employer violates overtime laws. Most employees feel the weak economy has also forced them to do more work for less pay. In Great Britain, France, Australia, China, Mexico, India and Brazil, about two-thirds of hourly workers report that their employer violates overtime laws at least some of the time.
Most hourly workers who were surveyed indicated an eagerness to work extra hours, presumably for additional pay. In the U.S., some 43 percent of workers said they wish more hours were available.
In the U.S., there has been an increase of nearly 50 percent in the number of employee claims alleging wage-and-hour violations – from about 5,000 complaints annually a decade ago to the current rate of more than 7,000 claims a year alleging violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).
The United States Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division is responsible for overseeing compliance with the FLSA. Under federal law, the minimum wage is $7.25. The New Jersey Assembly is debating whether to increase the state minimum wage to $8.50. Nonexempt hourly employees must be paid at least 1.5 times their regular wage for hours worked over 40 hours in a week.
Exempt Employees may include:
-Professional employees, including school teachers.
-Certain commission and sales positions.
-Certain salaried supervisory positions.
Tipped employees must be paid at least $2.13 an hour. However, tips must amount to at least the minimum wage or the employer must make up the difference. There can also be legal issues when employees are forced to share tips — particularly with supervisors or other non-tipped employees.
In other cases, an employee may be misclassified as a salaried employee, or wrongfully paid a salary for more than 40 hours worked. Another issue that has become commonplace is misclassifying employees as independent contractors. These violations can be particularly egregious and may also leave an employee uncovered by workers’ compensation insurance in the event of an on-the-job accident.
Unpaid or withheld wages may also constitute a wage-and-hour violation under the New Jersey State Wage Payment Law (N.J.S.A. 34:11-4.1).
Throughout the downturn, employers laid off workers and made existing staff pick up the slack. And many have been slow to increase hiring through what has been a sluggish recovery. Too often, employees do not report violations for fear of losing their job. While state and federal laws prohibit retaliation, it remains a valid concern.
But when such circumstances are permitted to become commonplace, basic employee rights become a casualty. When coworkers seek the advice of an experienced law firm, their rights are better protected.
If you need to speak to an employment law attorney in New Jersey or New York, contact the Resnick Law Group at 973-781-1204 or (646) 867-7997.
Overtime Complaints Common in U.S., Worldwide, By Allison Linn, Today, Aug. 28, 2012.
New Jersey Public School District Pays to Settle Disability Discrimination and Retaliation Claims, By Resnick Law Group, P.C., July 24, 2012.