Violations of wage and hour laws can manifest in several different ways. Although the Fair Labor Standards Act and the Colorado Wage Act set clear standards for wages, vacations, commissions, bonuses, final pay, pay periods and pay statements, employers will still try to find ways around the law. Some of the most common violations relate to overtime pay, minimum wage, off-the-clock work and misclassification.
Most people are familiar with the term “overtime”; however it may be misunderstood as to what exactly the law-defined term entails. Overtime hours are generally those hours worked in excess of the standard 40 hours in a work week (8 hours per day, Monday through Friday). Unfortunately, many employers either ignore the overtime requirement or consider employees “exempt” from overtime pay even if no exemption applies. Often times, employees are asked to run errands or bring work home to meet deadlines. In both of these scenarios, employers are obligated to compensate the employee for those work-related overtime hours.
MINIMUM WAGE VIOLATIONS
The current federal minimum wage is $7.25 per hour, and the state of Colorado holds the minimum wage at $8.00 per hour as of January 1st, 2014. Employers are required by both federal and state law to pay the minimum wage to all employees for all hours worked within a single workweek. Additionally, these wages must be “free and clear”, which means that employees cannot be charged for tools, equipment, or other items that primarily benefit the employer. Tipped employees are sometimes paid a wage lower than the minimum provided that their tip-share amounts to at least the federal minimum of $7.25 per hour. Many employers have been sued for taking all, or a portion of, employees’ tip-share, or using unlawful tip pools that do not compensate the employees to the federal minimum wage.
In many cases, employees are required to perform certain tasks or activities that are an essential part of the primary work activity. It is the duty of the employer to compensate their employees for this time spent on “non-productive” pre-shift and post-shift activities, such as the application and removal of safety gear.
Employers will sometimes claim than an employee is exempt, whether purposefully or by mistake, to avoid overtime or minimum wage obligations. Employees exempt from overtime and minimum wage obligations are managerial and administrative staff, and independent contractors. All other staff is entitled to overtime pay and minimum wage, and it is unlawful for any employer to attempt to classify a non-exempt employee as exempt.