How much unpaid overtime am I owed?

One type of case Gold Star Law regularly handles is unpaid overtime.  Most employees are entitled to receive at least minimum wage for all hours worked and at least one and one-half times their regular rate of pay for hours worked in excess of 40 per week, called “overtime.”  There are exceptions to these rules, called “exemptions,” which means that an employer does not have to pay overtime and/or minimum wage if certain criteria are met.  However, employers often get these exemptions wrong, meaning they think they did not have to pay an employee extra money for overtime but they really did.  On top of that, employers often knowingly break the law and don’t pay overtime to employees even if they know they should.  Sometimes employers refuse to pay employees for all hours worked, including overtime, and sometimes they just find other ways to pay employees illegally such that the employees do not get at least one and one-half times their regular rate of pay for their overtime hours.

If you were supposed to be paid an overtime premium for the overtime hours you worked, and your employer refused to pay it, what are you owed?

The first thing we have to do is establish your actual overtime damages.  We get this number by first computing what you should have been paid in the first place.  We look at your regular rate of pay for each week.  In some cases that just means your same pay rate that you always get, but in other circumstances your hourly rate of pay can change on a weekly basis (for example, if you get a non-discretionary bonus, that amount gets factored in by dividing it by all hours worked to compute a new rate of pay.)  If you were paid less than minimum wage, your default regular rate of pay is increased to the minimum amount you had to be paid as a matter of law.  We then multiply that rate of pay by all hours worked for the time period.  Next, we take half of that rate, the extra “overtime premium,” and multiply that amount by the number of hours worked in excess of forty per week.  This amount is the total overtime premium that should have been paid.  We add those numbers together to get the total amount you should have been paid for the pay period.

Once we know what you should have been paid, we look at the amount you were actually paid and see what the difference is.  We sometimes have to remove amounts paid, such as mileage reimbursements or discretionary bonuses, that are not a part of your regular hourly pay.  We add up all of the weeks within the allowable time period to see the total amount of actual unpaid overtime compensation that you are owed.

In addition to the actual unpaid overtime you are owed, you may also be entitled to an extra equal amount called “liquidated damages.”  Liquidated damages are owed under the Fair Labor Standards Act unless the employer can show that it acted in “good faith.”  This is a pretty high standard to meet, and more often than not liquidated damages ARE awarded to the employee.  To show good faith, an employer has to show that it had a reasonable and honest belief that it was paying its employees properly.  If an employer called the Department of Labor and was given bad advice that said it did not have to pay overtime, that could be a reason why an employer was acting in “good faith” and does not have to pay liquidated damages, although it would still have to pay the actual unpaid overtime owed.  However, an employer who simply refuses to look at or ask about the law is not acting in “good faith” and should pay liquidated damages for an unpaid overtime violation.  This doubles the amount of unpaid overtime damages that you receive.

If you believe that you are entitled to unpaid overtime, contact Gold Star Law for help.