The lawyers at Matheson & Matheson, P.L.C., have a detailed knowledge of federal and state wage and hour laws, and we regularly represent clients throughout Arizona to recover unpaid wages and overtime compensation. Our website provides general information regarding the overtime and minimum wage requirements that most employers must follow, and that information may help you to determine if you have a potential claim. If you believe that you may have been unlawfully denied overtime compensation or a minimum wage, then please contact us to schedule a consultation. We are ready to help.
Overview of Federal Overtime Law
The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) is a federal law that requires most private and public sector employers to pay overtime to most employees for hours over 40 in a single workweek. If your employer has failed to pay required overtime, then in many cases you would recover twice the amount of the unpaid overtime. You may recover unpaid overtime for a period beginning two years before you bring a complaint, and that damages period may be extended to three years in some cases. In addition, if you recover any unpaid overtime, then your employer would be required to pay your attorneys’ fees.
You may be entitled to overtime compensation even if you are paid on a salary basis. Both employers and employees often assume that any employee who receives a salary is not entitled to additional overtime pay, but that assumption is often not correct.
Employers are not required to pay overtime to employees who fall into one the FLSA’s overtime exemptions. However, the overtime exemptions can be confusing and employers have struggled through the years to apply them correctly, as evidenced by thousands of federal court cases over many decades. Even the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) has been sued for overtime violations, and the DOL is the agency responsible for enforcing the FLSA. Thus, you may qualify for overtime pay, even if your employer has told you that you are exempt.
The following FLSA exemptions are the most commonly applied:
- Executive Exemption: Employees meeting the executive exemption must manage the company or a department of the company; regularly direct the work of two or more full-time employees; and have the ability to hire or fire employees or the authority to influence such a decision.
- Administrative Exemption: Employees under the administrative exemption must regularly perform office or non-manual work. They must also consistently exercise discretion and independent judgment in significant matters. The term “discretion and independent judgment” has a special meaning as used for the Administrative Exemption. All of us make daily decisions at work, and some of our decisions can have significant impact if we make the wrong decision. However, “discretion and independent judgment” is more than making important decisions. Rather, “discretion and independent judgment” involves the comparison and evaluation of different options and the authority to decide which option to choose on behalf of the employer. Employees who make decisions that are largely dictated by procedures, policies, regulations, or established practices may not be exercising “discretion and independent judgment.”
- Learned Professional Exemption: Employees meeting the learned professional exemption must have a job requiring advanced knowledge in the areas of science and learning, typically acquired by an extended course of specialized study ( e.g., doctors, lawyers and CPAs).
- Outside Sales Exemption: Employees who primarily make sales away from the worksite are exempt from overtime pay.
These brief descriptions are far from complete, so you should not rely on them as legal advice. However, if you have been classified as exempt and believe that you do not fit within any of the exemptions described above, then we encourage you to contact us to schedule a consultation.
Overview of Arizona Minimum Wage Law
As of January 1, 2015, the minimum wage for most Arizona employees is $8.05 per hour, which exceeds the federal minimum wage rate. In 2014, the Arizona minimum wage was $7.90 per hour. Employees who do not receive a minimum wage are entitled to receive the amount of the underpaid wages with interest, plus an additional amount equal to twice the underpaid wages.
In 2011, the minimum wage was $7.35 per hour. In 2009 and 2010, the minimum wage was $7.25 per hour. Employees who do not receive a minimum wage are entitled to receive the amount of the underpaid wages with interest, plus an additional amount equal to twice the underpaid wages.
Employers Must Keep Accurate Time Records
Employers have an obligation to keep accurate pay and time records for every employee. Inadequate or missing time records are particularly common when the employer has misclassified an employee as “exempt” or as an “independent contractor.” Fortunately, in the absence of accurate time records, the employee’s own recollection of the hours worked may be used, particularly if the employee’s recollection is supported by other evidence. We can assist employees in estimating their hours worked through the use of other available documentation, such as e-mail or cell phone activity, computer log on or log off times, building entry and exit times, and other available means.
Some employers require employees to work outside of their scheduled hours. That off-the-clock work often counts as hours worked for purposes of both overtime and minimum wage laws. Some common examples of work that may be completed “off the clock,” but that should be counted, include:
- shift turnover meetings,
- donning and doffing specialized protective equipment,
- using cell phones, smart phones, laptop computers, pagers, or other devices to perform work outside of normal work hours,
- attending required training, or
- completing required paperwork outside of normal work hours.
If you believe that you may have a claim for unpaid overtime or minimum wages, then we would encourage you to begin tracking all of your work hours in writing, including when you start work each day, when you end work each day, and any breaks during each day. We would also encourage you to save your payroll records and any other documents related to the hours you work and how you are paid.
Independent Contractors May Be Covered
You may be entitled to overtime pay and a minimum wage even if you have been classified as an independent contractor. Companies are not required to pay overtime or minimum wages to independent contractors. However, some “independent contractors” are misclassified, meaning that they are actually considered employees under the law. The terms and conditions of your working relationship will determine whether you qualify as an employee.
Have you been misclassified as an independent contractor? Ask yourself the following questions:
- Do you perform work for only one company?
- Does the company provide the tools and supplies that you need to do your work?
- Does the company have “employees” who perform the same work as you?
- Do you have a long-term relationship with the company, as opposed to a short-term assignment?
- Does the company tell you what tasks to perform and how to perform them?
- Did the company train you on how to do your work?
If you answered “yes” to one or more of these questions, then you may be misclassified. If you are misclassified, then you would be covered by the FLSA’s overtime requirements and Arizona’s minimum wage requirements. To learn more, please contact us to schedule a consultation.
Protection Against Retaliation
Employees who bring an action to recover underpaid wages or overtime pay are protected from retaliation. For example, an employer who retaliates against an employee for seeking underpaid wages must compensate the employee for any related losses and must also pay stiff penalties (not less than $150 for each day that the violation occurred). Similarly, the FLSA provides specific protection to employees from retaliation for bringing a claim for unpaid overtime.
Large Firm Expertise, Small Firm Expense
Prior to opening our boutique firm, our lawyers gained valuable knowledge while working on behalf of large employers in Arizona. This experience, combined with the knowledge gained in arbitrations and lawsuits, gives us the ability to aggressively pursue employers who fail to comply with applicable wage and hour laws.
In an effort to offer the most effective employment law guidance, we take great care to understand your unique situation, your concerns and your goals before offering informative advice that is tailored directly to your needs. This personalized approach, combined with our experience, gives us the ability to offer the legal representation you need while maintaining personal accessibility and affordability.
Contact Our Office
Contact our office online or call 866-521-0720 to schedule a consultation to discuss whether you have been paid all compensation due to you.