A weaker economy has undoubtedly led to more work, and sometimes for the same – or even less – pay.
Boston employment lawyers understand overtime complaints have become increasingly more common – and not just in the U.S.
The survey, conducted by Harris Interactive on behalf of Kronos Inc., found that about two-thirds of non-salaried employees in France, the U.K., Australia, Canada, Mexico, China, India and Brazil indicated their employers violate overtime rules – at least part of the time.
In the U.S., a little less than half said the same thing.
So while we may be better off than some other places, overtime violations are no rarity. They are rarely sanctioned, except through civil litigation, despite the fact that both federal and Massachusetts state laws forbid an employer from not properly compensating most hourly employees with overtime.
Workers in China, Britain and India had the highest number of complaints.
Of course, overtime in and of itself is not a problem – and is often welcome by many employees because they need the extra pay. In fact, in the U.S., nearly 50 percent said they were content with the amount of overtime they worked, and another 40 percent said they actually wished they had more.
The problem is when overtime laws are broken.
The U.S. Fair Labor Standards Act (or FLSA) requires that companies pay time-and-a-half for any time employees put in over the full-time 40 hours work week. There are a few exemptions (for example, police, firefighters and hospital workers typically don’t work a 40-hour week, so the rules are a bit different).
The regular base rate of pay has to meet minimum wage requirements (which is $8 per hour in Massachusetts as of Jan. 1, 2012, except for tipped employees, for whom it is $2.63 an hour).
So here, if an employee makes $8 regularly, the worker would have to be paid $12 an hour for any time that he or she works over that 40-hour threshold.
When workers do get overtime, they may be reluctant to speak up about not receiving the full time-and-a-half pay because they don’t want to jeopardize their opportunity for extra hours. In some cases, hourly workers may be subtly asked to work over without any pay at all.
Across the U.S., there has reportedly been a record increase in the number of employee claims of wage and hour violations. These include miscalculation of overtime pay and off-the-clock work. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, there have been roughly 7,000 complaints filed so far this year under FLSA. That’s an increase of about 2,000 from 10 years ago.
Last year, the federal agency’s wage and hour division reportedly collected some $225 million in back wages from employers on behalf of some 275,000 workers.
More employees may be standing up to overtime violations in Boston due to the discussion generated by high-profile cases, such as several class action suits filed by Walmart workers. Earlier this year, the retail giant agreed to pay some $5 million in back wages to some 4,500 employees who were not properly classified, and therefore denied the overtime to which they were entitled. Four years ago, another case involving the company, alleging improper meal and rest breaks, resulted in a $352 million verdict.