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Employment & Labor Laws

Employees in the United States have the right to be treated fairly, and equally, in their workplaces. The federal government has enacted many laws to guide employers in this process, but at times both workers and supervisors may run into areas of the law that may need clarification. Here are some of the aspects of today's labor laws that provoke the most questions.

Overtime Pay & Unpaid Wages

Employees who believe they are owed overtime wages that were not paid at the time the work was completed have four options to recover the back pay under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). The United States Department of Labor advises such workers to:

** Seek the help of the Wage and Hour Division of the U.S. Department of Labor to oversee the payment of the earnings owed to the employees.

** Persuade the Secretary of Labor to sue the employer for the back pay and damages resulting from the employer.s actions.

** File individual suits to recover missing wages, damages, and court and attorney's fees.

** Appeal to the Secretary of Labor to intervene with an injunction to stop the employer from violating the FLSA.

Typically, employees have two years to begin the process of attempting to recover missing overtime pay. If the actions of the employer are deemed "willful," the statute of limitations is extended to three years.

Workplace Discrimination

Employees in the United States, in general, are protected by Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) laws. These laws were designed to prohibit workplace discrimination on the basis of national origin, race, color, sex, gender, age and religion. The U.S. Department of Labor is clear that discrimination will not be tolerated in any facet of workplace practices. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination for the following:

  • hiring
  • promotion
  • discharge
  • pay
  • fringe benefits
  • job training
  • classification
  • referral
  • other aspects of employment

Wrongful Termination

When a worker is fired or laid off from a company, it must be done for business reasons and not be based on one of the personal characteristics listed above. In addition, employees may not be discharged solely because of a disability or status as a U.S. veteran. Workers who report illegal activities by their employer also are protected under whistleblower status and may not suffer retaliation of any kind.

Minimum Wage

The FLSA states that non-exempt workers at most employers in the United States must be paid a minimum wage for their work. Currently, that pay rate is $7.25 per hour. Some states, however, have laws that mandate that the minimum wage for hourly workers is higher than the federal minimum wage. Residents of these states are entitled to receive the higher pay rate.

There are several exceptions to the federal law as it relates to minimum wage, too. For example, employees who earn gratuities, such as restaurant servers, only have to be paid $2.13 per hour.

If you believe you have experienced unfair practices in your workplace, contact one of our experienced labor attorneys, who will answer your questions. For free case evaluation, call 407-420-3999.

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