The Fair Labor Standard Act (“FLSA”) is an important body of legislation enacted by the United States government to protect employee rights and ensure workers are treated fairly. The primary claims regarding improper wages and overtime pay are handled by this Act, as well as those pertaining to exemption status. The Act contains provisions for holding managers, directors, or officers personally accountable for any violations found to have occurred on their watch—ensuring that employees who make such claims will receive justice even if they are not able to prove a direct action against them. The FLSA is essential in making sure the workplace remains a safe and equitable environment for all employees.
Dismissing employees is never simple, and there are certain situations where it may be the only choice. It is a difficult decision, particularly if it involves a long-serving and senior member of the team, and can result in complications if the proper procedures are not followed or if the termination is perceived as retaliatory.
There is a common misconception among employers that an agreement between the employer and employee on compensation, such as salary, is sufficient protection against FLSA claims. However, this is not the case. Even if the employee agrees to a salary, the employer must prove that the employee is exempt to avoid FLSA liability for improper wage compensation.
FLSA claims can be costly, as employers may be liable for damages and attorney fees, which can be significant in FLSA cases. Therefore, employers in Florida need to comply with the FLSA regulations and seek legal advice to prevent potential liability.
What are FLSA claims?
FLSA claims are legal actions initiated by employees for unpaid wages. These claims often arise from the misclassification of an employee as exempt or non-exempt or a failure to provide minimum wage and overtime pay as mandated by state and federal laws. Such claims may be filed not only against the company but also personally against the manager or owners of the organization. Due to the severity of these claims, it is crucial to carefully examine the facts and circumstances surrounding each employee and the company’s policies during their employment.
Examples of FLSA Claims
There are several examples of FLSA claims that can arise in Florida. Some of the most common include:
- Failure to pay minimum wage: The FLSA sets a federal minimum wage, which is currently $7.25 per hour. Florida also has a state minimum wage, which is currently $11 per hour. If an employer pays an employee less than the minimum wage, the employee may have a claim for unpaid wages under the FLSA.
- Failure to pay overtime: The FLSA requires employers to pay non-exempt employees overtime pay for any hours worked over 40 in a workweek. Overtime pay is typically 1.5 times the employee’s regular rate of pay. If an employer fails to pay overtime, an employee may have a claim for unpaid wages under the FLSA.
- Misclassification of employees: The FLSA distinguishes between exempt and non-exempt employees for purposes of overtime pay. Exempt employees are not entitled to overtime pay, while non-exempt employees are. Misclassification of employees as exempt when they are really non-exempt can result in a claim for unpaid overtime.
- Unpaid meal and rest breaks: The FLSA does not require employers to provide meal or rest breaks, but if they do, they must be paid if they are less than 30 minutes. Employees who are not paid for their meal or rest breaks may have a claim for unpaid wages.
- Tip violations: Employers must comply with strict requirements when it comes to tipped employees. For example, they must pay tipped employees at least $5.63 per hour and make up the difference if their tips do not bring them up to the minimum wage. If an employer violates these requirements, an employee may have a claim for unpaid wages.
- Prevailing wage claims: If a company provides labor or services for a public project on behalf of a state entity or the federal government, it must pay employees a prevailing wage, usually higher than the minimum wage. If an employee is not paid the prevailing wage, they may have a claim under the FLSA.
What are retaliatory discharge claims?
Retaliatory discharge claims are legal actions initiated by employees who have been wrongfully terminated for reporting an employer’s failure to pay wages or overtime or for violation of local, state, or federal labor laws. Each case is unique, and a thorough investigation of the complaint’s circumstances is necessary to build a strong defense. These claims are serious and can have severe consequences for employers, including damages, penalties, and legal fees. Therefore, businesses must implement policies and procedures to prevent retaliation against employees who raise legitimate concerns or complaints.
Examples of retaliatory discharge claims
Florida businesses may face retaliatory discharge claims in the following instances:
- An employee is terminated shortly after reporting discrimination or harassment in the workplace.
- An employee is terminated after reporting safety violations or hazardous working conditions.
- An employee is terminated after whistleblowing or reporting illegal activity by the company.
- An employee is terminated after filing a workers’ compensation claim or taking a medical leave of absence.
- An employee is terminated after joining a union or engaging in protected union activities.
- An employee is terminated after refusing to engage in illegal activities on behalf of the employer.
- An employee is terminated after requesting accommodations for a disability or religious belief.
In each of these situations, the employee may claim that their termination was retaliatory and file a lawsuit against the employer.
Defending Against FLSA and Retaliatory Discharge Claims
To effectively defend against FLSA and retaliatory discharge claims, it is crucial to work with an attorney with experience in complex business and employment legal matters and litigation and a strong financial background. At the Campbell Law Group, our team has the necessary expertise to defend companies facing these types of claims.
We are located in the Miami area but accept cases from all over the state of Florida. If you are a Florida-based employer grappling with an FLSA or retaliatory discharge claim, we can provide you with the experienced representation you need.
If you have an FLSA or retaliatory discharge case, please do not hesitate to contact us. We also offer additional resources, including blog articles, videos, and other materials, on this topic for your reference.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can managers, directors, or officers be held personally accountable for FLSA claims?
Yes, FLSA claims can hold managers, directors, or officers personally accountable for any violations of the Act. This means that if an employee files a claim against a company for unpaid wages, overtime, or improper exemption status, the managers, directors, or officers of that company may also be held liable.
Can prevailing wage claims be brought against a company in Florida?
While Florida is not a prevailing wage state, Florida-based companies doing business in other states, such as New York, New Jersey, and Illinois, may face prevailing wage claims for failing to pay required wages on certain types of contract employment for specific trades when providing services or labor for public projects on behalf of state entities or the federal government.
Why is working with an attorney experienced in complex business and employment legal matters and litigation for FLSA and retaliatory discharge claims
Working with an attorney experienced in complex business and employment legal matters and litigation for FLSA and retaliatory discharge claims is important because these cases can be complex and require specialized knowledge and experience. Additionally, managers, directors, or officers may be held personally accountable for FLSA claims, so it is important to have strong legal representation.
What is the statute of limitations for FLSA and retaliatory discharge claims?
The statute of limitations for FLSA and retaliatory discharge claims is generally two years from the date of the alleged violation or three years if the violation was willful. However, there may be exceptions and specific circumstances that could affect the statute of limitations, so it is best to consult with an experienced attorney to understand the limitations that apply to your particular case.
What are the potential penalties for FLSA and retaliatory discharge claims?
The potential penalties for FLSA and Retaliatory Discharge Claims can include back wages, liquidated damages (an additional amount equal to back wages), attorney fees, and court costs. In cases of willful violations of the FLSA, the penalty can include civil fines and criminal charges. Additionally, employers found guilty of retaliatory discharge may be required to reinstate the affected employee and provide compensation for lost wages and benefits.