Five Common Labor Law Violations

Wednesday, January 13th, 2016

Many employers find themselves facing employment related lawsuits that come directly from labor law violations. In many cases, the employer had no idea there was a problem until they received the lawsuit notice. It is important for employers to know about the five most common labor law violations and to take action to avoid problems. These labor law violations include not paying overtime when required, paying sub-minimum wages, not ensuring a safe workplace, not covering employee’s injuries on the job, and misclassification of employees.

Not paying required overtime

According to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), employees who are paid hourly that work more than 40 hours in a given week must be paid 150 percent of their hourly wage for the additional hours. There are very few exceptions to this labor law.

A common way this labor law is violated is when an employer pays on an every two week or once a month basis. Instead of considering each week as its own entity, the employer considers the total hours worked in the pay period when calculating overtime.

Let’s say that an employee works 42 hours the first week of the pay period and 38 hours in the second period. That is a total of 80 hours for the two week pay period. If the employer only pays the hourly rate for those 80 hours, it is a potential labor law violation. The employee should be paid 150 percent of hourly wage for the two hours of overtime in the first week, and the hourly rate for the remaining 78 hours in the pay period.

Paying sub-minimum wages

Every state has a minimum wage and there are few exceptions where a company can pay an employee less. These exceptions are usually for apprentices or student workers. These exceptions are also only for limited times and in limited circumstances.

If an employer knows that an employee is working off the clock, the employer can be held liable for paying that employee for the hours worked. This can either be at the wish of the employer who wants extra work done without paying for it or if the employee is doing the work on his or her own initiative. Paying sub-minimum or unpaid wages is a common labor law violation that is easily avoided.

Not ensuring a safe workplace

The Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) is in place to ensure workplace safety for employees. If an employer does not take the appropriate measures to make the workplace safe, it can face lawsuits from employees and sanctions from OSHA.

Workplace safety issues can come in many forms. These include poor ventilation, poor lighting, incorrect storage of chemicals, cluttered office spaces, and poor ergonomic design of individual work spaces. The employer is also responsible for educating employees about potential hazards and providing appropriate training to avoid this common labor law violation.

Not covering worker’s injuries on the job

Most states require employers to carry some sort of workers’ compensation insurance to cover the costs of work-related injuries. Texas is an exception to this rule, allowing some companies to cover the costs themselves. However, even if an employer is legally exempt from workers’ compensation insurance, that does not mean they are exempt from paying for work-related injuries.

In almost all cases, if a worker sustains an injury while working for a specific employer, that employer must cover the costs related to that injury. These costs include medical fees, rehabilitation fees, and the wages not being earned due to disability. Failing to cover these costs will be a labor law violation.

Misclassification of a worker

Some employers try to classify workers in such a way to minimize the wages paid to that person. This misclassification results in a labor law violation.

An example of this labor law violation is trying to classify someone as a salaried employee when the work that the employee is doing should be paid hourly. According to the FLSA, the only people who should be paid salary are professionals, executives, administrative staff, outside sales people, and some computer positions. If an hourly worker is classified as a salaried one to get more than 40 hour of work each week without paying overtime, it is a major labor law violation.

It is important for all employers, no matter the size of the business, to be aware of the legal obligations they have in adhering to labor laws. Having the advice of experienced legal counsel can help. Contact Brown & Fortunato for more information on common labor law violations. Give us a call at (806) 345-6300 or Contact Us via email. We welcome you to visit our office at 905 S. Fillmore St., Suite 400, in Amarillo, Texas.

This information is subject to change. Please check for updates that are more recent than the published date of this article.