The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) is a federal law that requires all covered, nonexempt employees be paid at least the minimum wage for all hours worked. The FLSA also provides that covered, nonexempt employees who work more than 40 hours in the workweek must receive overtime pay at the rate of at least one and one-half times the employee’s regular rate of pay for the overtime hours (hours worked over 40 in a workweek). A work week, which can begin on any day of the week, is 7 consecutive 24-hour periods or 168 consecutive hours.
Most workers in the United States are covered under the FLSA. Employers, however, utilize many different schemes to avoid paying overtime and to reduce payroll costs. A few common ways that employers violate the FLSA are:
- Claiming that because an employee is paid a salary, he or she is not entitled to overtime pay;
- Failing to count all work time in computing overtime pay, such as not including travel time between jobs or time spent performing pre-shift or post-shift duties; or by requiring employees to work “off the clock;”
- Utilizing time clocks that “round down” time in 15 minute increments or that are otherwise solely favorable to the employer;
- Giving employees important sounding titles such as “assistant manager” in order to claim that they are exempt from the overtime laws;
- Paying employees cash at their straight-time hourly rate for all hours worked over 40 in individual work-weeks;
- Using illegal averaging techniques to avoid paying correct overtime wages, such as paying employees overtime on the basis of 80 hours every two weeks as opposed to 40 hours in an individual work-week;
- Excluding certain payments from the regular rate for overtime purposes, such as bonus and commission payments, thereby resulting in the employer paying the employee overtime wages based on an incorrectly low regular rate of pay.
The FLSA strictly outlaws these and many other illegal employer practices. The only workers who are not entitled to overtime pay are those workers who the employer can prove fit within one of the few exemptions to the FLSA. In addition, there are state laws that provide extra protection and benefits to employees. For instance, some state laws require employers to pay overtime wages to employees who are not otherwise protected by the FLSA. Certain states also require that employers pay overtime rates that are higher than the federal wage rate.