The COVID pandemic is creating wage and hour issues. For example, because of COVID, millions of nonexempt employees ( employees who must be paid for overtime worked over 40 hours each week) were working from home for over a year. This change occurred overnight, and these workers were sent home without any real time or opportunity for employers to plan or have in place reliable mechanisms to monitor and ensure employees were not working off the clock. These work-from-home models are now permanent for many reasons, including cost savings on office space rent.
Consider the following example: Jane works in a call center in Charlotte, North Carolina. Her job requires her to respond to customer complaints and prepare reports to her supervisor explaining the number of complaints she has received and how she resolved those complaints. Because of COVID, she has been working from home since April 2020. Her hours are 9 am to 5 pm daily, with an hour lunch. She should be paid for overtime for any hours she works over 40 each week.
Jane’s boss Jack is a jerk, and he has a bad attitude; Jack thinks working from home is a luxury and thinks all of his employees don’t work hard at home. Even though Jane should be logging off her computer each night at 5 pm, Jack emails and texts her for many hours after 5 pm. Jack will email her and text her with questions throughout the evening and expects Jane to respond to those questions immediately. Jack has also told Jane she is to submit a timesheet that only reports a total of 40 hours each week because his budget won’t support the payment of overtime. Jack has also told Jane that if she fails to respond to his texts and emails immediately, he will fire her for poor performance.
Jane is a single Mom of three children, and she needs her income, so she complies with his demands. JANE IS MAKING A BIG MISTAKE-SHE IS ALLOWING HER BOSS TO CHEAT HER OUT OF HER OVERTIME PAY. Jack has been working Jane “off the clock.” If we assume Jane is working an extra 8 hours each week after 5 pm, and she is making $15.00 per hour, Jack has stolen $9,000.00 in overtime pay from Jane. If we assume there are 40 people working for Jack, and they also average an additional 8 hours each week, Jack has stolen $360,000.00 in overtime pay from his team.
Many organizations face worker shortages at present; the restaurant and building industries are two examples. Because of these shortages, many managers are not “managing” their business. Many are working alone or short-staffed and are primarily working side by side with their workers washing dishes or swinging a hammer.
Consider the example of Larry. He works for a company in Charlotte that builds houses and commercial buildings. He gets paid a salary of $800 per week. His duties are to supervise a crew of 4 other workers who clean up the “punch list” of odd items that need to be completed before a building is considered completed and ready for the buyer to take occupancy. Because he is a salaried manager, Larry has never been paid overtime, despite working 55 hours each week.
In the last year, because of COVID, Larry’s team has consisted of only one man named Bob. For the previous year, Larry has spent the majority, if not all of his day, working side by side with Bob repairing punch list items. Larry has not been supervising; he has simply been working with his hands. He has been turned into a “working foreman.” Larry should have received overtime pay for the extra 15 hours he has been working each week because his duties no longer satisfy the managerial exemption to the wage and hour laws. Potentially, Larry could be owed as much as $22,500.00 for the overtime his employer stole from him.
North Carolina and South Carolina have statutes that protect employee’s pay. In addition, the federal government enacted the Fair Labor Standards Act ( FLSA ) to protect workers against violations of their rights to minimum wage and overtime pay. The FLSA also requires employers to keep accurate records of the time employees work and the wages paid to employees. Under the FLSA, workers who question or complain about their wages are protected from retaliation by their employer.
The employment lawyers with the Law Offices of Jason E. Taylor in Charlotte, North Carolina, are available for a free consultation if you believe your employer has illegally failed to pay the wages or overtime pay owed to you.