Does your employer pay you less than the minimum wage? Did your employer fail to pay you overtime? Does your employer owe you unpaid wages and overtime pay? Is your job in jeopardy because you insisted on receiving payment for the time you worked? If the answer to any of these questions is yes, then you need to hire an unpaid wages lawyer.
The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) punishes employers who refuse to pay and provides remedies for workers who have unpaid wages from their employers. To ensure employers pay attention to wage and hour laws, underpaid employees may work together (even if the amount of unpaid wages for an individual employee is small). Under the FLSA, employees can make sure that employers don’t take advantage of those who may find it challenging to bring legal action on their own.
Federal employees are entitled to recover their overtime pay under both the FLSA and FEPA (Federal Employee Pay Act).
Employees are entitled to filing a claim for unpaid wages if their employer has failed to pay them:
- Minimum wage
- For overtime work
- Premium overtime payment for hours worked over the legal maximum (over 40 hours in a workweek)
- For meal and rest breaks provided by law
- For work-related travel time during the workday
- For the time you need to take off or put on work-related uniforms or gear
- For accrued vacation time
However, these claims are not clear cut. For example, if you receive commissions or work for tips, even a minimum wage claim can be complicated. Also, employers are not obliged to compensate for all travel time. With the help from an employment lawyer, you can determine if your employer’s conduct has violated federal or state law.
Payment of wages is governed by state and federal laws and regulations – each of the set of rules is extensive, and the interplay among them is complex. If your employer hasn’t fully paid you for your work, you may be entitled to penalties and attorney fees (in addition to wages owed). In certain situations, if an employer fails to pay wages, you may have the grounds to bring in other claims (e.g., claims of unfair competition).
Workers that are Most Often Underpaid
Wage and overtime lawyers never represent employers who treat their workers like expendable commodities. They fight for the employees – the “underdogs” – the workers who have been wrongfully cheated out of their wages. According to our experience, employees who are most often underpaid include:
- Field workers, oil and gas workers, and field service technicians
- Healthcare workers and nurses
- Customer service and call center employees
- Mortgage industry employees
- Retail store employees
- Tipped employees
- Construction workers
- Contract workers or independent contractors
- And many others
How Can an Unpaid Wages Attorney Help?
Besides unpaid wages and overtime, common types of employment lawsuits include:
- Discrimination (sexual harassment, national origin, disability discrimination, genetic discrimination, pregnancy discrimination, etc.)
- Wrongful termination
- Hostile work environment
An experienced employment law attorney is a knowledgeable and well-qualified professional who can help you understand the wage and hour laws in the state of New York, as well as assist in filing a claim with the Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division (WHD). An employment attorney can ensure that you’re able to collect any remedies for unpaid wages available and present you with all the options for challenging your employer’s illegal conduct.
If you file a wage and hour lawsuit, do you have a case worth pursuing? Only labor lawyers can tell you for sure. Let’s take a look at the most important benefits of hiring an employment lawyer to help you fight for your unpaid wages.
1. Capacity to investigate your wage claims
When you hire an unpaid wage attorney, you are also appointing a team of investigators. Your untracked overtime is not lost; it just needs to be recovered. According to the FLSA, employers are the ones responsible for tracking total overtime earnings for a workweek, and they must keep these records up to three years.
Your unpaid wages and overtime lawyer will work with you to establish evidence and gather documentation of unpaid wages, even if your employer didn’t keep the records. For example, a copy of your pay stub (which shows a minimum wage violation) will be helpful to prove that your employer has not paid you and has committed wage theft.
2. Knowledge of employment laws
Labor lawyers have extensive knowledge and experience on pay requirements for different kinds of jobs. That includes everything from determining a non exempt versus exempt employee to fair compensation for independent contractors. The specific details of your case (i.e., your hours worked or job role) will be supported by the standards for federal overtime throughout litigation and mediation.
Certain laws are written in a way that can be confusing to a person not familiar with legal terms. However, a lawyer can read through the laws and help you understand them by explaining in simpler terms. That makes it much easier to figure out whether it’s worth pursuing a course of action.
3. Gather necessary documentation
Taking action on unpaid wage and hour claims requires documentation. With experienced unpaid wages and overtime attorney, you’ll get help gathering the necessary documentation to support your claim. Ultimately, this ensures that you receive the best possible remedy.
4. Ability to negotiate
In certain cases, employees may be entitled to more money than they think. Unpaid wages and overtime may result in settlement of back wages, and those amounts can add up. Your attorney will negotiate unpaid wages and overtime for unlawful deductions, plus 150% of your regular pay rate for any unpaid hours (according to New York’s overtime law).
5. Cost and benefit analysis
An employment attorney can give you an assessment of your likelihood of winning a dispute over unpaid wages and overtime with your employer, as well as the cost of undertaking any type of legal action. You and your attorney will discuss the attorney fees you may have to pay in order to pursue damages and what you might recover from them.
Furthermore, liquidated damages must match the amount of your unpaid wages, according to the FLSA. That means that if you are awarded $2,500 in back pay, you may be eligible for an additional $2,500 in liquidated damages. If you win the case, you could recover compensation for everything from unpaid wages to attorney fees, treble damages, and other costs.
6. Power and experience to build a case
A wage lawyer can strengthen your unpaid wage claim case through collective action, by contacting your fellow employees to substantiate the violation of your employment contracts and rights (as well as theirs). For instance, labor lawyers can bring a collective action against employers who misclassified salaried workers as exempt. This employer practice typically affects more employees within the same company or organization. An employment attorney has the power and know-how to build your claim by bringing your colleagues on your side.
7. Driving informed decisions
To successfully file an unpaid wage claim and win the case, hiring an employment attorney is a great idea. Labor lawyers have trained eyes, and when reviewing a large volume of documents, they can determine what’s useful and relevant to your case. All matters related to the court require expert advice, and employment lawyers are well versed in the nuances of labor laws. It means that they’re able to evaluate your unpaid wages case quickly and give expert advice. On the whole, wage lawyers can handle almost everything on your behalf.
Penalties that employers could face for failing to pay regular and overtime wages include facing liability for the amount of pay they failed to pay. They also might pay liquidated damages to their employees, face civil penalties (up to $1,000 per violation), and compensate the employee for attorney fees.
Depending on the relationship between you and your employer, it may be best to have a New York employment lawyer handle your case. Typically, there are lots of emotions on the employee’s part (as well as ex-employees), and employment attorneys can look at your specific situation from a factual standpoint. When emotions get in the way of employees’ settlement negotiation, they can easily do or say something that could damage their claim case and reduce the settlement amount.
Employees in New York who would like employment lawyers with extensive practical experience to help file their underpaid wage lawsuits should look no farther than Cilenti & Cooper. Our wage and hour attorneys pursue cases regarding an array of wage and employment issues in the state of New York. We help employees who were forced to work overtime, had tips stolen, were paid less than minimum wage, wrongly denied overtime, or were otherwise underpaid. Our firm sues for these unpaid wages and additional damages, thanks to labor lawyers dedicated to fighting for workers who are denied the money they deserved with their honest work.
To find out whether you have a case, feel free to contact Cilenti & Cooper today.