The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) is a federal law that was put in place in 1938. It established things like minimum wage and the 40-hour workweek. Along with a universal workweek, it defined overtime as any time spent working after eight hours a day or forty hours a week. It also requires employers to pay workers one and one half times their normal hourly rate for all overtime worked.
There are exceptions to the overtime mandate, but the FLSA is very specific about the types of employees that can be considered exempt from overtime. To begin with, they must be paid an annual salary of at least $23,600 and fit the qualifications for one of three categories: administrative, executive, and professional.
The administrative category includes all workers who perform primarily office work and provide administrative assistance directly to an executive. In order to qualify under the executive category, employees must spend the majority of their time managing other employees, have the authority to discipline those employees, and have substantial influence in the hiring and firing of those employees. The professional category includes all workers who require a particular set of skills or level of education in order to perform their jobs, including physicians, attorneys, and performers.
These employees are not granted protection under the FLSA because the assumption is they occupy positions with enough influence to negotiate fair rates of pay and hours for themselves. Unfortunately, this is not always the case, and as with most laws, the FLSA needs to be regularly updated in order to keep up with the changing times. For example, in 1938, the minimum wage was set at $0.25 per hour. Now it is $7.25 per hour, and there have been talks of raising it again.
The minimum wage is not the only thing that should be updated regularly. An annual salary of $23,600 may have been a lot of money in 1938, but today it’s below the poverty line for a family of four. There has been talk of raising that threshold to $50,000.
In addition to rates of pay, the definition of work and overtime need to be updated in a world where telecommuting is becoming increasingly common. In 1938, all work was done on location. Now people can respond to phone calls, emails, text messages, and perform work from virtually anywhere. This can mean greater freedom and better work/life balance for employees, but it can also be more difficult to keep track of the amount of time worked.
A recent lawsuit has brought the issue to the attention of Illinois courts. A Chicago police officer filed a class action wage and hour lawsuit alleging that he and other officers were issued personal digital assistants and were expected to respond to communications, even when they were off duty.
Despite the extra work this involved, the lawsuit alleges officers were discouraged from claiming pay for that time. A judge has allowed the plaintiffs to pursue their claim, and the ruling could have consequences for workers in virtually all industries.
The Chicago class action lawyers at the Chicago Overtime Law Center are investigating unpaid overtime claims by waiters and bus boys and other restaurant and hotel workers against national restaurant chains including Hilton, W, Marriott, Sheraton, Holiday Inn, Best Western, Chipotle, Red Lobster, Olive Garden, Outback Steak House, Taco Bell, Burger King, Wendy’s and hotels for mis-classifying employees as managers or assistant managers, forcing employees to work off the clock at business, failing to share all tips, erasing or altering time sheets or time records, pressuring workers not to report or record overtime, and otherwise failing to pay workers for overtime and other wages. If you are the victim these wage theft practices call us at (312) 869-4095 or contact us online.
The Chicago class action attorneys at the Chicago Overtime Law Center have three decades of experience fighting to help employees who are victims of wage, overtime and tip theft by their employers. We have a team of Chicago unpaid overtime lawyers who concentrate on prosecuting state and nationwide class action lawsuits. Our attorneys work out of Chicago and Oak Brook offices and pursue claims for workers all over the Chicago area including Evanston and Waukegan. We protect unpaid workers who haven’t received overtime throughout the Chicago area including in DuPage, Lake, McHenry, Kane and Cook Counties.
Our Waukegan and Northbrook overtime lawyers are intimately familiar with the issues that arise during wage claim litigation, and we know the laws that govern overtime cases well. Many employers mis-classify employees as being exempt from overtime laws and pay workers salaries instead of hourly wages in order to avoid paying them overtime. Some employers mistakenly classify employees as exempt and others intentionally do so in order to circumvent the law. In either case, workers do not receive the wages they should, and a lawsuit may be the only way to recover their earned wages.
The Chicago Overtime Law Center is based in Chicago, and represents clients throughout the country who have unpaid overtime and other employment right claims.