Number of overtime wage claims grow due to recession

The recent recession forced American employers to lay-off more than 9 million workers.  Those with jobs were working longer hours, often for the same or less pay, to pick up the slack.  Many of which were not paid overtime if the extra work resulted in a 40 hour plus workweek.

May of these workers have begun to file lawsuits against their employers for those wages.  There were 32% more overtime wage lawsuits filed last year than in 2008.

Employers were avoiding paying overtime by using various illegal practices including forcing the employee to work off the clock, misclassifying the employee as exempt and having employees complete work on their personal time.

More than 7,000 lawsuits, many of them class action, were filed in 2011.  That number is nearly 4 times the amount of lawsuits filed in 2000.   $225 million in back wages was recouped by the Dept of Labor on behalf of American employees.

Richard Alfred, chairman of Seyfarth & Shaw, a corporate defense firm believes that these lawsuits are being filed by disgruntled employees who may have lost their jobs during the recession and look at these as a “financial windfall.”

However, employers have and will continue to manipulate an employees classification and job responsibilities in order to avoid paying overtime.

In Chicago,  Jeffrey Allen, a sergeant in the organized crime unit of the Chicago Police Department is a plaintiff  in a suit against the city.  Allen claims that he was constantly barraged with emails, texts and calls on his department issued phone. He said most nights until 10 pm.

“You feel like you don’t really get a break from the job.”  Allen is claiming overtime pay from 2007 to 2010.

Heather Jennings, a call center employee for Verizon, claims that she was required to be at the call center 10 to 15 minutes before her shift started to log into her computer and open databases to be ready to take calls.

Richard DeLeon, a manager for a Big Lots store in Florida regularly worked 60 hours a week as a salaried employee.  However, he spent most of his workday cashiering, unloading trucks and keeping the store organized.  His responsibilities as the store manager took up about 15% of his work day.  In addition, he was not responsible for hiring, firing or disciplining workers.  A clear case of misclasification.

The FLSA requires that an employee receive overtime pay for any time worked over 40 hours if you are a non-exempt employee.  Even if you are a salaried employee, you may still be entitled to overtime pay.  Contact our office today to speak with one of our attorneys concerning your claim for overtime wages.