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Overtime and Wage & Hour Cases in Georgia

Experienced Atlanta Overtime Attorneys: Call Us at (404) 471-3725

One of the oldest federal employment laws is the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). This depression-era federal law set forth certain minimum wage and overtime standards applicable to virtually all U.S. employers.

The FLSA covers a number of different areas, including child labor laws. However, there are two key provisions of the FLSA that impact just about every employee who works for a wage in this country:

  1. The minimum wage provision (the federal minimum wage is currently $7.25 per hour)
  2. The overtime provision

To learn how we can help resolve your employment and wage issue, call our law firm in Atlanta, GA and talk to an attorney today.

Are You Owed Overtime Wages?

Overtime law states all employees who are not exempt from the FLSA must be paid at a rate of one and one half times their regular rate of pay for all hours worked in excess of 40 in any workweek. Although this sounds like a simple rule, employers paying overtime wages is far from a simple matter.

There are a number of arcane overtime rules and broad exemptions that employers often rely on in an attempt to avoid paying overtime. As a result, unpaid overtime is one of the most frequent sources of employee complaints. Overtime class action cases are probably the fastest growing type of employment litigation in our federal court system.

Exemptions Under Overtime Laws

The most important issue in overtime law is whether or not the law applies to the type of work you do—whether or not you are exempt. If you make over a certain amount of money per week, and you perform a certain type of "white collar" work, then you are exempt from overtime. This means your employer need not pay you time and a half no matter how many hours you work in a week.

If, however, the exemptions do not apply to you, then you are considered non-exempt. Your employer must pay you time and a half for every hour you work more than 40 in any workweek.

There are three principal exemptions under the FLSA:

  • Executive
  • Administrative
  • Professional

For your employer to establish your work falls under an exemption, they must prove you are paid no less than $455 per week on a salary basis. Additionally, they must prove your principal duties are executive, administrative, or professional in nature.

What is the salary basis test?

The salary basis test means that you must be paid a real salary to be exempt. That means you receive a fixed and predetermined sum of money each pay period. This fixed amount does not vary with the amount of hours you work, or the quality of your work.

If your compensation varies with the amount of hours you work, then you are a non-exempt hourly employee and entitled to overtime. If you are paid on what appears to be a salary basis, but your employer docks your pay, you are not paid on a salary basis. This means you are probably non-exempt and eligible for overtime.

It's critical to remember in these cases is that the title or label of your job does not matter. Instead, it is the nature of your work that determines whether or not you are exempt. Don't be fooled by some companies' practice of giving hourly employees titles that sound like they are exempt, such as assistant manager. If you don't perform true management functions, then no matter what your job title says, they are still required to pay you overtime.

Duties Test for Exempt Employees

As mentioned above, if you perform typical white-collar duties, then you may be an exempt employee. There are three principle white-collar exemptions:

  1. Executive
  2. Administrative
  3. Professional

There are also a number of miscellaneous exemptions.

  • Executive Exemption: For your employer to prove that your duties are primarily executive in nature, your employer must demonstrate three separate facts:
    • Your primary duty consists of either managing your employer's business, or a specific department of the business
    • You customarily and regularly direct the work of at least two full-time employees
    • You have the authority to hire or fire other employees, or have significant input into hiring, firing, and other important employment decisions

Typically, the jobs that that qualify for this exemption are executive level positions, high-level managers, and other individuals who manage and control some important aspect of the company.

  • Administrative Exemption: For your employer to prove that your duties are primarily administrative in nature, your employer must demonstrate two separate facts:
    • Your primary duty is the performance of office or non-manual work directly related to the management or general business operations of your company
    • Your primary duty involves the exercise of discretion and independent judgment with respect to important company business
  • Professional Exemption: For your employer to prove that your duties are primarily professional in nature, your employer must demonstrate:
    • Your primary duty involves work that requires advanced knowledge. This includes work which is predominantly intellectual in character and which includes work requiring the consistent exercise of discretion and judgment
    • The advanced knowledge is in a field of science or learning
    • The advanced knowledge was customarily acquired by a prolonged course of specialized intellectual instruction. There is also a related creative professional exemption. This exemption applies if your primary duty involves artistic or creative work.

In addition to these three exemptions, the two other common exemptions are for outside salespeople and certain computer employees:

  • Computer Employee Exemption: You must be paid on salary basis of not less than $455 per week. You must be employed as a computer systems analyst, programmer, software engineer or skilled worker in the computer field. Your primary duties must consist of software, hardware or system consulting, design, development, documentation, analysis, creation, testing or modification or a combination of these skills.
  • Outside Sales Exemption: Your primary duty must be making sales or obtaining orders or contracts. You must be customarily and regularly engaged away from your workplace.

Rights and Remedies Under the FLSA

The FLSA is one of the most employee-friendly of the federal labor laws. It sets minimum standards applicable to all covered employees that cannot be reduced or waived. In other words, if you are non-exempt, then your employer must pay you overtime. Your employer cannot ask you to take a lesser amount or get you to waive your rights to overtime in any way.

However, state laws and collective bargaining agreements can impose greater duties on employers than the FLSA. In a few states the minimum wage is higher than the federal minimum.

If you believe your employer has committed a violation of wage and hour laws, you don't have to file an EEOC claim. Instead, you can hire a private attorney and file suit as soon as you discover the violation.

If others at your company have also been denied overtime pay, you may be able to file a FLSA collective class action. A collective action will help you bring the maximum pressure to bear on your employer to change its ways and to pay the compensation you are owed.

Also unlike the discrimination laws, the FLSA has a much longer statute of limitations. You have two years to file suit for most violations and three years if your employer's violation of the law is willful. You damages can include all back wages plus an amount equal to your unpaid back wages, interest, attorneys' fees, and court costs.

Fight for Your Unpaid Wages: Call Our Team at (404) 471-3725 for Help.

The FLSA is an extremely complex statute. There are hundreds of pages of rules and regulations covering the exemptions and other aspects of the law. Our Atlanta employment lawyers at Buckley Beal have read these hundreds of pages, and we are very experienced in handling wage theft cases. We've handled both individual overtime cases and huge collective actions, recovering millions of dollars in unpaid overtime for our clients.

If you have any reason to believe that you or anyone else at your company have been denied overtime, call us anytime at (404) 471-3725.