Employee Rights for Overtime in Tennessee
In a business relationship, both employers and employees have responsibilities toward each other, but many employers find ways to take advantage of their workforce. One of the most common types of violations involves the mishandling of overtime.
Wage theft, or when a business doesn’t pay workers the full amount they are owed for their labor, is one way that employers violate their employee’s rights. Failing to pay extra wages when employees work beyond 40 hours a week is illegal and can be fixed with the help of an unpaid overtime lawyer.
An experienced employment attorney is well-versed in the ways that employers try to skirt wage and hour laws and exploit employee rights. If you suspect you aren’t getting paid what you are owed in Tennessee, get the unpaid overtime lawyers in Nashville at the Employment and Commerce Law Group on your side.
Employment law cases are the sole focus of our law firm. We take a no-nonsense approach to enforcing your rights, refusing to let your hard-earned efforts go unrewarded. Let us help you find justice by recovering the money you fairly earned for your work.
Our team is standing by to help you with your unpaid overtime case. Call or contact us for a free consultation.
What You Need to Know About FLSA Rights
The primary law that governs employee rights concerning overtime and fair wages is the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). Originally passed in 1938 during the Great Depression, the FLSA sets the federal minimum wage and also outlines other regulations regarding how workers are paid for their labor. This includes rules regarding how employees should be paid for overtime.
Since Tennessee does not have its own minimum wage or overtime laws, the state’s rules are set by the FLSA. Here are some key things to know about your rights regarding overtime pay under the FLSA:
- Most employees are eligible for overtime pay. Though the FLSA does carve out a few categories of workers who are exempt from federal overtime rules, these provisions do not apply to most employees. If you work more than 40 hours per week, your employer is likely required to pay you overtime rates for those additional hours.
- Your employers can require you to work mandatory overtime. The FLSA allows employers to make employees work overtime. However, if employers do require employees to work more than 40 hours per week, those employees are required to be compensated at overtime rates. Whether the overtime work is voluntary or required, employers still need to follow FLSA overtime rules.
- You have the right to tell other people at your workplace about suspected labor violations. Many employers discourage employees from talking about their compensation as a way to hide potential labor violations and suppress employees’ pay. You are allowed to talk to both your employer and fellow employees about suspected labor issues, and you may be able to take legal action if your employer decides to retaliate against you for doing so.
- Tipped employees are entitled to minimum wage makeup. Tipped employees, such as many restaurant workers, are exempt from FLSA minimum wage requirements. However, if the sum of a tipped employee’s wages and tips do not add up to the federal minimum wage, then their employer is required to make up the difference.
- Tipped workers can pool their tips, but only with other tipped employees. Workers who receive tips can divide their tips amongst themselves. Non-tipped employees, including managers, cannot collect any money from pooled tips.
Overtime Pay Requirements
Broadly speaking, the FLSA and Tennessee labor laws say that an employee is entitled to overtime pay any time they work more than 40 hours per week, regardless of whether the employee is considered part-time or full-time.
When an employee works more than 40 hours per week, any additional hours they work are paid at a rate of 1.5 times the worker’s normal hourly rate, or “time and a half.” For employees that work on salary instead of at an hourly rate, their overtime rate is calculated by converting the employee’s salary into a standard hourly rate, then using that figure to determine their overtime wages.
While most workers are eligible for overtime pay, there are a few exceptions. These categories of employees are called “exempt workers” because they are exempt from FLSA overtime pay requirements. There are a few specific industries that are exempt from overtime rules, such as workers who work for railroads or in the transportation industry.
Some other kinds of workers who are exempt from overtime pay include:
- Certain kinds of salaried employees, especially managers.
- Workers who meet certain income standards set by the Department of Labor.
- “Learned professionals” in certain fields, such as doctors, lawyers, journalists, engineers, musicians, and other industries that require advanced knowledge or training.
- Employees who solely perform executive or administrative duties.
If your job duties do not meet these criteria, you probably should be getting overtime pay if you work more than 40 hours in a given week.
One common way that employees cheat their workers out of overtime pay is by misclassifying them as exempt when the employee qualifies for overtime. If this has happened to you, speak to a Nashville overtime lawyer right away.
What Is Compensable Work Time?
One way that employers may try to cheat an employee out of overtime pay is by arguing that not all of the hours the employee worked count as compensable overtime. Fortunately, the Department of Labor has established guidelines on what counts and what doesn’t. Here are a few key points to note:
- Generally speaking, any hours that the employee is required to be at work while performing or waiting to perform their duties count as compensable work time. This time period begins when the employee is required to report to work and continues until the employee is through with their primary job duties, even if the time required to complete those duties extends beyond the employee’s stated shift.
- An employee can voluntarily continue past the end of their shift to complete an assigned task or to correct errors. This counts as compensable work time, even if the employee was not ordered to stay late.
- Waiting time can count as compensable work time, depending on the nature of the employee’s duties. For example, firefighters who are not actively out in the field may wait at the station until they receive an emergency call. This is referred to as “engaged to be waiting” and is considered compensable work time.
- Employees who are on call at their employer’s premises are considered to be working while on call. Employees who are on call at home are generally considered not to be working while on call, and those hours do not count as compensable work time.
- Short rest breaks of 20 minutes or less are compensable work time. Longer meal breaks of 30 minutes or more are not compensable work time, as long as the employee is allowed to be fully disengaged from their work so they can eat.
- Travel time is generally considered work time if it’s related to your normal work duties. If you travel for work, the period in transit is compensable work.
- Meetings and training sessions are considered compensable work time unless four specific criteria are met: The training is outside of normal work hours, is optional, is not job-related, and no other work is being performed during their meeting or training time.
How to Know If I’ve Been Misclassified
Your classification as an exempt employee depends on your duties, not your job title. For example, if you’re promoted to assistant manager (which is generally an exempt position), but you’re still doing the duties of a cashier, your duties still likely require you to be paid as a non-exempt worker.
If you think you’ve been misclassified as an exempt employee, look at your job duties and your typical workday, then see if the hours you work and the duties you perform line up with FLSA guidelines for overtime pay. A wage and hour lawyer can also help you figure out if you’re being unfairly denied overtime.
Common Types of Overtime Fraud
Some of the common types of overtime fraud include:
- Employers not paying overtime because an employee didn’t ask permission before extending their shift.
- Denying part-time employees overtime even when they work more than 40 hours.
- Misclassifying an employee as exempt even when their duties show they should be receiving overtime pay.
- Not properly counting breaks or waiting time when calculating an employee’s hours worked.
- Not counting an employee’s per diem payments when calculating overtime pay.
- Offering “comp time” when employees work more than 40 hours (only government entities are allowed to do this).
- Counting necessary work preparation, such as putting on safety equipment, as “off the clock” hours.
- Having an employee perform both exempt and non-exempt work duties.
Contact an Employee Rights Lawyer in Nashville Today
If you’re being unfairly paid, don’t let your employer get away with it. Let an unpaid overtime lawyer at the Employment and Commerce Law Group protect your rights and fight for the money you’re owed. For a free case review, call our office or visit our contact page today.