Central to Georgia law on overtime wages is the Fair Labor Standards Act, or the FLSA. This Act was designed to protect employees from being taken advantage of, and along with the Wages and Hours Bill, it requires employers to pay their workers fairly. In particular, the Federal government says that any time an employee works more than 40 hours per week, he or she should be paid “overtime,” or one and a half times the normal hourly wage.
Here in Georgia, the FLSA is designed to affect “employees who are engaged in interstate commerce or in the production of goods for commerce, or who are employed by an enterprise engaged in commerce or in the production of goods for commerce.” While some employers are exempt, in most cases an employer that has at least $500,000 per year in sales must comply with these guidelines.
However, “white collar” workers like professional, executive, and administrative employees are exempt from the overtime rule. Before gaining any kind of exemption, though, employers have to prove that their employees “plainly and unmistakenly” do not belong under the normal status. In other words, your boss cannot refuse to pay you overtime by rewording your title to include the word “executive.”
In recent years, many Atlanta business owners have discovered that simply calling someone an “independent contractor” is not enough to exempt that person from overtime. The FLSA rules still apply, unless the employee is truly an independent worker. In determining the nature of the employer-employee relationship, the Court will pay attention to the “economic reality” of the situation.
From handling various overtime cases over the years, our firm has learned that many people in Atlanta and throughout the state are ignorant of their rights as workers.
You may not know it, but the time you spend traveling between job sites, any work you do before your shift starts or after it ends, and anything you do to prepare for your central job functions should count as part of your 40 hour week. If any of this is getting done on your own time, you are probably not being paid appropriately.
If you are working overtime, then you should be compensated for anything more than 40 hours at 1.5 times your regular hourly rate.
Recently, the Courts have made progress towards closing the loopholes that have allowed employers to pay people less than they deserve. For a while, many employers were attempting to exempt their lower-level employees, including administrative staff, by giving them higher-level titles. The trend in calling secretaries “executive assistants” is a perfect example of this kind of thinking.
Bursting the “executive” title bubble, the FLSA stipulated in 2004 that exemptions have to be based on job function rather than title. If you do not actually perform a managerial role in your job, then you are not exempt from the FLSA’s rules on overtime.
Under Georgia law, you can only pursue an overtime claim for hours worked within two years of filing the claim. In certain cases, if we can prove that your employer was willfully disobeying the law by paying you less than you deserved, the statute of limitations may be extended another year.
If your boss is asking you to work more than 40 hours without being paid for your extra time, you should understand that this practice is illegal. It may benefit your boss’s bottom line, but it is unfair to you, and you need to find a lawyer who can represent your interests. Give us a call today to see what we can do to get you the money you deserve.