Does your employer have a written overtime policy in place? If not, there is a good chance you are being underpaid for the hours you work in excess of 40 per week. Many employers think they can skirt the law by paying their workers “in cash” or “off the books,” but that is not how the law works. To the contrary, federal and state wage-hour regulations require employers to give all employees written notices of their pay rates, as well as a written wage statement for each pay period.
Employers Face Double Damages for “Willful” Overtime Violations
Employers who fail to implement or follow proper overtime procedures can find themselves facing serious civil penalties. Consider this recent decision from a federal judge in Manhattan. The plaintiff worked for the defendant, a mobile phone store in the Bronx. Although the defendant paid the plaintiff above the applicable minimum wage at the time, it did not pay him time-and-a-half for overtime.
The defendant had no written overtime policy of any kind. Yet the defendant required the plaintiff to work overtime hours–in some cases up to 60 hours per week–and never paid him more than his base hourly wage. Nor did the defendant apparently keep accurate records of hours worked, as the plaintiff presented his own notes to the court on this issue.
All in all, this was an open-and-shut case. The judge found that the defendant failed to comply with the Fair Labor Standards Act, which governs the minimum wage and overtime. Furthermore, she said the defense “willfully” violated the law. This is an important distinction as a court may order what is known as liquidated damages–basically double the amount of back overtime owed to the employee–if an FLSA violation was willful rather than inadvertent.
Here, the judge noted the defendant admitted it was “aware of the basic overtime rules” and its duty to pay the plaintiff overtime if he worked more than 40 hours. Given this, and given the defense's failure to provide written wage statements during the plaintiff's employment, the judge said the defendant's violations were willful. In addition, the judge admonished the defendant for “failing to pay any employment taxes due as an employer” and paying the plaintiff in cash. Although the plaintiff apparently requested this arrangement, it is still against the law.
Ultimately, the judge awarded $1,771.50 in liquidated damages for the unpaid overtime. She also ordered the defendant to pay over $10,000 in additional damages for failing to provide proper pay notices or wage statements as required by New York State law. Altogether, the plaintiff received nearly $12,000 in total damages.
Stand Up for Your Rights in the Workplace
As you can see, wage and hour violations are no joking matter in New York. Employers must understand and follow the rules when it comes to paying their workers. Employees must not be afraid to assert their rights in the workplace. If your employer has not paid you overtime and you need advice from an experienced New York employment law attorney on what to do next, call the Law Offices of White, Nisar & Hilferty, LLP, today.