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More employees are suing for overtime pay

More workers are taking their employers to court to get overtime pay. Recent cases include a police officer and a lawyer who each said they worked more than 40 hours without overtime pay. Nine candy company workers say their employer wrongly classified them as sales representatives to avoid paying overtime. Employment lawyers say more sue because they are becoming more aware of their employee rights.

Wage and hour lawsuits have increased 10 percent so far this year. That follows a 400 percent increase in such suits from 2000 to 2011. Experts say a common issue is businesses classifying an employee as a salaried professional who is not eligible for overtime when the employee is performing non-professional work duties. However, many experts do not think employers deliberately misclassify workers. They say the law can be confusing.

The federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) regulates work rules in the United States. It established the eight-hour workday, 40-hour workweek, minimum wage law, the requirement for time and a half pay after 40 hours and classes of workers who get overtime versus those who are exempt.

Although FLSA updates its classifications, some management experts say employers use changes in business models to their advantage. One example is salaried store managers exempt from overtime. However, the trend to centralized decision making means many store managers now do the same work as their hourly employees.

Lawyers say there is an increase in noncompliance and think some companies do it deliberately to save money. An employer recently had to pay $1.1 million in back wages to 196 employees for not paying them overtime by misclassifying them as independent contractors.

Source: CNBC, "Court Battles Heat Up: 'I Want Overtime Pay'", Mark Koba, June 17, 2013

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