Wage Theft and Overtime Violations
Overtime Violations, So-Called “Independent Contractors,” and the Many Other Ways Employers Steal Wages and Benefits
Recent studies report that billions of dollars of wages are stolen from employees throughout the country, including employees here in New Jersey, every year.
A 2014 Report by the Economic Policy Institute found the following:
Wage theft is widespread and costs workers billions of dollars a year, a transfer from low-income employees to business owners that worsens income inequality, hurts workers and their families, and damages the sense of fairness and justice that a democracy needs to survive. A three-city study of workers in low-wage industries found that in any given week, two-thirds experienced at least one pay-related violation. . . . The total annual wage theft from front-line workers in low-wage industries in [just the] three cities [studied] approached $3 billion. If these findings in New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles are generalizable to the rest of the U.S. low-wage workforce of 30 million, wage theft is costing workers more than $50 billion a year.
How do employers do it? Thousands of employees in New Jersey, and millions around the country, are misclassified by their employers as “independent contractors” which allows their employer to avoid paying them overtime pay, health insurance benefits and pensions, and which also gets employers off the hook from paying their share of payroll taxes. Similar numbers of employees are denied overtime pay by being misclassified as “managers” or “supervisors” when they really are doing very little real managerial work. Many others employees are denied even the minimum wage required under New Jersey and federal law.
The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) is the federal law that governs the payment of overtime pay. Under the FLSA, the general rule is a simple one: all employees are entitled to be paid time-and one-half for all hours worked in excess of 40 hours in a workweek. Importantly, the entitlement to overtime pay is not limited only to employees paid on an hourly basis; rather, and “contrary to popular belief,” the right to be paid overtime extends to many salaried employees, including some well-paid salaried employees.
As with any general rule, however, there are exceptions, and, when it comes to overtime pay, those exceptions (known as exemptions) are of critical importance. There is an exemption for certain “executive employees;” one for certain “professional employees;” and one for certain “administrative employees.” Because there is a lot of “gray area” with each of these exemptions, an in-depth and finely tuned understanding of the law is critical in determining whether an employer has failed to properly pay overtime pay.
Attorneys Richard Schall and Patricia Barasch have handled numerous cases involving the misclassification of workers as “independent contractors” and numerous cases involving right to overtime compensation, including a major class action litigated over the course of several years on behalf of more than 100 highly skilled technical employees working for one of New Jersey’s largest corporations. That case is typical of our willingness to tackle the most complex legal issues in employment law and to take on any corporation no matter how large or how wealthy.
If you believe your right to overtime pay may have been violated, please contact our firm by clicking on the link below, “Help Us Understand Your Case,” and completing the on-line Questionnaire.
Richard Schall agues against forced arbitration before the New Jersey Supreme Court