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Employers Should Take Care Before Relying on an Exception to FLSA Overtime Requirements

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By Joseph G. Ballstaedt

Under the Fair Labor Standards Act, employers are generally required to pay employees overtime pay, which is one-and-a-half times the regular pay. Overtime pay kicks in after an employee works 40 hours in any given week. There are several common exemptions to the overtime pay requirement, which apply to commissioned sales employees; computer professionals; drivers, driver’s helpers, loaders, and mechanics; farmworkers; salesmen, partsmen, and mechanics; employees at seasonal and recreational establishments; and executive, administrative, professional and outside sales employees.

These and all other exemptions are narrowly construed against employers asserting them, and employers have the ultimate burden of proving an exemption applies. As a result, any employer seeking to avoid paying overtime should take great care to check the exact terms and conditions of the exemption relied upon.

Employers who improperly rely on an exemption to overtime can incur great liability, especially in Idaho. Idaho’s Claims for Wages statute give people “the right to collect wages, penalties and liquidated damages provided by any law or pursuant to a contract of employment . . . .” (emphasis added). The overtime provisions under the FLSA constitute a law upon which a party can seek wages, so it is likely covered by Idaho’s Claims for Wages statue. This statute further states that recovery under its provisions includes costs and attorney fees and “damages in the amount of three (3) times the unpaid wages found due and owing.” Thus, in Idaho, an employee who has not been paid overtime pay can likely seek three times the amount owing. For example, if an employee is paid $10 an hour and works 100 hours of overtime but is only paid $10 for each overtime hour, the employee was shorted $5 an hour for each hour of overtime for a total of $500. Thus, the employee could sue for $1500, three times the amount owing, in addition to costs and attorney fees.

Most employment laws favor employers, but as discussed above, overtime laws favor employees and give them substantial remedies.

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