Basic Wage Rights

Laws enacted by the federal, state, and in some instances municipal government establish basic wage rights.

The federal Fair Labor Standards Act

In 1938 Congress enacted the Fair Labor Standards Act establishing the employers obligation to pay individuals they employed. The FLSA provides that an employer is required to pay:

  •  minimum wage of at least $7.25 per hour for hours up to forty hours per week; and 
  •  overtime compensation at a rate of time and half the employee’s regular rate of pay for hours over forty hours per week.

Certain states and municipalities have enacted laws that impose higher requirements on employers.

A humanitarian and remedial law

Wage laws are designed to protect invidiuals who have less bargaining power than their employer by imposing obligations on employer and providing rights to employees.

FLSA includes the following provisions designed to discourage practices that violate the standards and permit enforcement so as to encourage voluntary compliance:

  • liquidated damages;
  • collective action;
  • anti-retaliation; and
  • fee-shifting.

The United States Supreme Court has long held that the rights and obligations enacted under the FLSA cannot be abridged by contract. In other words applying the law to the facts determines whether or not there has been a violation and  not what parties reduce to writing.

Exemptions and exceptions to the basic wage rights

Congress enacted exemptions and exceptions and imposed strict requirements and boundaries means the law has been violated.

Frequent Concerns

F.C. 1: I do not have any evidence.

Evidence is information obtained from documents, electronically stored information, and testimony that can persuade a reasonable person to find something is more likely true than not. 

The evaluation of wage case begins with the records an employer is required to keep by law. Next, involves the testimony of current and former employees as well as managers and owners. There are other sources of information that may lead to other evidence.

F.C. 2: I cannot afford an attorney.

Attorneys that practice in this area of the law will take these cases on a contingency basis meaning they will agree to represent you and fees will be recovered from a judgment award or settlement agreement. 

F.C. 3: I fear retaliation from my employer.

Filing a lawsuit in federal court is considered protected activity and the law provides recourse against an employer who retaliates against someone engaged in protected activity.