After a crazy week at work you wait patiently for your paycheck to come. Now, this is not any ordinary payday. This one is different. You went above and beyond the call of duty, and put in a whopping 60 hours last week. So the day comes to cash in; yet when you open your paycheck, you come to find that you were not given your well-deserved time and a half for all of the extra time you put in! At this point you probably have a lot of questions, such as “What can I do?” “Should I find another Job?” or “Will I ever get paid for my work?”
Under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), most employees must be paid at least minimum wage for regular work hours and receive overtime pay when the total weekly hours reach more than 40.1 Florida does follow the overtime rules of the FLSA, however there are guidelines in Florida which provide certain exemptions to overtime pay. While your job title will not determine your eligibility for overtime pay, your wages, duties, and occupation will determine whether you can gain overtime pay.
Generally, any employee that makes a yearly salary of less than $23,600 can be awarded overtime pay. (Great News! The U.S. Department of Labor has doubled the eligible salary threshold for overtime to $47,476. Businesses will have until December 2016 to comply.) 2 Likewise, non-management employees performing manual labor, secretarial, kitchen or clerical work, usually are entitled to overtime pay. With some exceptions, all hourly paid employees should be entitled to overtime.
The exemptions under FLSA are vast and the for the sake of not putting you to sleep, we have refrained from naming every exemption. However, you should be aware that there are numerous exemptions under the FLSA that may preclude you from receiving overtime benefits. (For a full list of exemptions Click Here)
Notify Your Employer
When attempting to collect your unpaid wages the first step you should take is to notify your employer. Mistakes do happen and making your employer aware of the error usually is enough to rectify the mistake. However, if you are unable to reach your employer, or you find that they are evasive or unwilling to pay, you must notify them formally in writing. Your letter should state that you intend to pursue a civil action against them if they do not pay you. Furthermore, your letter should state clearly the wages you believe you are owed, the dates you worked and the corresponding hours for each date your were not paid. After your employer receives your letter he will have 15 days to resolve the matter to your satisfaction. (Click Here for a good example of such a letter)
I cannot stress enough how important this letter can be when it comes to recovering your unpaid wages. A well-written letter, which asserts your legal rights, may lead to a quick resolution of your claim. I know you may be hesitant to take a stern stance against your employer; however it is your legal right to be paid for your work and you should never be nervous or afraid to ask for anything that is rightfully yours. Furthermore, under Federal and State law, an employer may not terminate, retaliate, or discriminate against an employee because he or she attempted to assert his or her rights under the law.3
Making Your Claim
If you are unable to resolve your issue with a demand letter you have a few avenues to choose from. Unlike most states, Florida does not have a state agency that receives employee complaints and enforces state wage and hour laws.4 If you want to enforce your claim you may either file a complaint with the Federal Department of Labor (DOL) or file a lawsuit directly. Filing with your local DOL office does not cost you anything upfront, however the DOL decides whether or not to pursue the case on your behalf. Therefore, if you are looking to recover your unpaid overtime expeditiously you may want to consider hiring private counsel. It is important to be aware that under the FLSA employees are allotted as much as 3 years to make a claim for recovery. Moreover, Florida employees can sometimes extend claims for unpaid wages beyond the 3-year period.
Florida is very generous when it comes to rectifying employer misconduct.
In Florida, you will be awarded attorneys fees, costs and liquidated damages if your employer violates the overtime law.5 These damages are equal to your unpaid wages award. In other words, if your employer owes you $1,000 in unpaid minimum wages, you are entitled to an additional $1,000 in liquidated damages. In essence, this doubles your unpaid wages.
If you find yourself in such a conundrum do not panic. At Berkowitz & Myer we know how stressful it is when you’re not paid a fair wage. Nonetheless, you don’t have to stress anymore. It is our job to make your problem OUR problem. Moreover, it costs nothing to hire us! Your employer will pay all the fees and costs when we settle or win your case! Our experienced attorneys will expedite your claim and make certain that you receive what is rightfully yours.
- Stat. 448.110