Avoiding wage and hour violations isn’t always easy. However, with some guidance, employers can keep their businesses compliant and their workers happy. Below is general guidance related to wage and hour violations, categorized by violation type.
Child Labor Violations
Hiring minors comes with greater employer responsibilities, seeing as minors have a number of specific wage and hour protections. Failing to comply with laws protecting this worker segment can be particularly costly. Between fiscal years 2020 and 2021, the Department of Labor (DOL) assessed more than $1 million in penalties for child labor violations among 190 employers in the Southeast region of the United States alone. Perhaps this was due to a shortage of workers and only minors were available for certain positions and hours. Yet, despite challenges in the current labor market, employers must remain compliant with all relevant state and federal laws governing child labor. Employers should also consider consulting with attorneys to ensure policies and practices are up to date and compliant.
The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) requires employers to pay covered nonexempt employees overtime wages if they exceed 40 hours in a workweek. Some companies utilize a variety of tactics to avoid paying these wages, including those that are unlawful. For example, a delivery business maintained a policy where drivers were only paid per day or per mile, period. However, based on their employee class, the drivers were still eligible for overtime pay, despite their company’s policy.
This example demonstrates the importance of properly constructed and regularly reviewed workplace policies and manager training, especially when managing employees with nontraditional schedules. Paying experts to review policies prior to their enforcement could save employers tens of thousands of dollars down the line. According to the DOL, employers may also contact the Wage and Hour Division (WHD) to ensure they understand their responsibilities and avoid similar violations.
One of the basic tenets of the FLSA is that work hours must be recorded for covered nonexempt workers and employees must be paid for that time. Yet, that doesn’t always happen, especially when it comes to overtime. Consider the example where a health care employer failed to accurately track employee working hours and also miscalculated how much overtime pay workers should receive.
The FLSA’s overtime requirements for health care workers require nonexempt employees to be paid overtime wages after working more than eight hours in a day or 80 hours in a two-week pay period—whichever is greater.
Employers must also accurately track working hours to ensure employees are getting paid for the time they work. This includes traveling between worksites and conducting work before or after specified shifts.
Sometimes employee schedules don’t fit neatly into a 40-hour period. When dealing with abnormal schedules, employers must be especially careful when calculating workweeks. Adopting lawyer-reviewed workplace policies and adequately training staff can help prevent potential issues.
The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) protects workers who need to take a prolonged absence due to a qualified family or medical reason. This law was enacted so that employees wouldn’t need to worry about losing their jobs while dealing with serious and potentially unexpected life circumstances. Yet, an employee can follow all proper procedures and an untrained or unknowing manager may still violate the law, resulting in costly consequences.
FMLA violations can be particularly costly as they may involve paying back employees’ lost wages. Employers should ensure managers, employees, and other stakeholders understand their FMLA rights. This includes knowing how to submit FMLA requests, understanding situations that might qualify for FMLA leave, and comprehending workplace guarantees that come with this leave (e.g., job protection). Understanding these details can help prevent wrongful termination and significant monetary penalties. It is so important for employers to seek professional guidance before making potentially costly decisions. By learning from these employers’ mistakes, others in similar industries can avoid major violations and prevent DOL audits.