Home Care Workers Can Now Get Minimum Wage & Overtime Pay Protections

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division issued a final rule on September 17, 2013, that extends the minimum wage and overtime pay protections to direct home care worker’s that provide essential home care assistance to elderly and people with illnesses, injuries or disabilities. The change in the law will be effective on January 1, 2015. This law will help home health aides, personal care aides and certified nursing assistants that previously did not get the benefit of minimum wages or overtime pay.

The Department of Labor has more information on the new rule at www.dol.gov/whd/homecare.

How to Keep Track of Your Work Hours

Did you know that an employer is legally responsible for keeping track of your work hours and maintaining these records? Even still, I have found that employers in violation of the Wage and Hour laws, particularly those that mis-classify an employee as exempt from overtime pay or that pay employees under the table, without making any of the legally required contributions to social security, unemployment or overtime pay, don’t keep track of hours. An employer’s failure to abide by its legal obligation to make and maintain your work hours may benefit it if you have a claim for unpaid overtime wages or minimum wages because the employer will argue that you did not work the claimed hours. Having your own record of hours worked can help in these situations, but is not necessarily required under the law for an overtime or minimum wage pay claim.

If you want to track your hours each week, the U.S. Department of Labor has made it easy. It created an application for the IPhone that is available for free. You can find out more about wage laws and how to download this free application at our website page on Unpaid Overtime Law by following this link: http://www.celcwi.com/upaid_overtime_wages.html

Verbal Complaint About Unpaid Overtime & Minimum Wages Are Protected by the Fair Labor Standards Act

The U.S. Supreme Court decided that both verbal and written complaints by an employee about violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”) are considered protected conduct under the anti-retaliation provisions of the law. These complaints typically relate to an employee not getting paid overtime or not getting paid anything for hours worked. The decision is Kasten v. Saint-Gobain Plastics Corporation, March 22, 2011.

The decision was based on the following language from the FLSA, Sec. 215(a)(3):

[An employer may not] discharge or in any other manner discriminate against any employee because such employee has filed any complaint or instituted or caused to be instituted any proceeding under or related to [the Act], or has testified or is about to testify in such proceeding, or has served or is about to serve on an industry committee.

U.S. Congress Passes Anti-Wage Discrimination Act for Veterans and Servicemembers

The Federal Congress passed important amendments to the Uniformed Services Employment and Restoration Rights Act (“USERRA”) that will benefit veterans and current servicemembers in private and public employment outside the armed forces. The Veterans’ Benefits Act of 2010 (H.R. 3219) ("VBA"), among other things, would clarify that USERRA prohibits wage discrimination against veterans and current servicemembers. The measure passed the U.S. Senate on September 28th, 2010, and the U.S. House of Representatives on September 29th. President Obama, who co-sponsored bills containing these amendments when he was a senator, is expected to sign the measure.

USERRA is intended to encourage non-career uniformed service so that America can enjoy the protection of those services, staffed by qualified people, while maintaining a balance with the needs of private and public employers who also depend on these same individuals.

Claims for Vacation Pay On Resignation Induced by Employer’s Promise

If you accrued vacation pay during your employment and were otherwise entitled to use or get paid your vacation benefit, an employer may be obligated to pay that vacation benefit to you upon termination. An employer’s policies may affect this analysis. If the employer refuses to pay the vacation benefit upon termination, then it may be in breach of its work agreement with you. If you resign your position based on an employer’s promise that it will pay your vacation benefit if you agree to resign, and the employer then refuses to pay the vacation benefit, the employer may be in breach of that promise to you. Either way, if you have a reasonable expectation of getting paid the vacation benefit on termination because of a policy or express promise from the employer, and the employer does not pay the benefit, you may have claims that you can bring as wage claims under Wisconsin law. The Wage and Hour Bureau of the Equal Rights Division for the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development should take a complaint on this basis. A private attorney can also enforce your rights.

Wisconsin Court Permits Employer to Fire Employee for Not Paying Back Overpaid Wages

The Wisconsin Court of Appeals, District II, issues an opinion on June 10, 2010, affirming a decision of a trial court that permitted an employer to terminate or fire an employee for not agreeing to pay it back for amounts that the employer overpaid her. Faraday-Sultze v. Aurora Medical Center of Oshkosh, Inc., __ Wis.2d __, 2009AP2429 (Wis. App. 6/2/2010). Wisconsin law prohibits wage deductions from the wages due or earned by any employee for defective or faulty workmanship, lost or stolen property or damage to property, unless the employee authorizes the employer in writing to make that deduction or unless the employer and a representative designated by the employee determine that the theft is due to the employee’s negligence, carelessness, or willful and intentional conduct, or unless the employee is found guilty or held liable in a court of competent jurisdiction. Wis. Stat. 103.455. Furthermore, an employer may not terminate or fire an employee for refusing to agree to such a deduction. Wandry v. Bull’s Eye Credit Union, 129 Wis. 2d 37, 384 N.W.2d 325 (1986). The court said that the public policy of the statute is to “prevent the employer from arbitrarily deducting hard earned wages at its prerogative.” The court in the Faraday-Sultze matter, however, found that since the employee did not earn the amounts the employer overpaid her, the law does not protect her.

Can An Employer Take a Raise Back?

In Wisconsin, the employment relationship is at-will. The employer and employee determine the terms and conditions of employment and, absent a promise of employment for a certain period of time, the relationship and its terms can end or change at anytime. Because of the at-will relationship, an employer may take a raise back without violating the law. What it may not do is to take pay back for work already performed at the rate under the pay raise. It’s a matter of expectations. Where an employee works for an agreed upon wage, even if it was the result of an unexpected pay raise, the employee is entitled to get paid at that rate. Once the work is performed, the employer may not modify the rate of pay for that work already performed. Taking pay back or failing to pay the wage at the rate agreed upon when the work was performed will violate the employee’s contractual rights and state wage laws. Deducting future paychecks for any such retroactive reduction in the wage rate also violates Wisconsin law.

Work for Pay Purposes Defined by Federal Court

The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals recently decided the appeal of employees asking to be paid for time spent washing off at the end of a shift, which would sometimes cause overtime. The Seventh Circuit is the federal appellate court covering cases arising in Wisconsin and other states in the Midwest. In Musch v. Domtar Industries, Inc., 587 F.3d 857 (7th Cir. 2009), the court stated that under wage laws, an employer must “pay their employees a wage for all the ‘work’ they do.” In looking at both Federal and Wisconsin wage laws, the court said that “work” is defined as “physcial or mental exertion (whether burdensome or not) controlled or required by the employer and pursued necessarily and primarily for the benefit of the employer and his business.” In this case, the court found that time employees spent washing up at the end of a shift was not “work” under this definition. The employees worked around hazardous chemicals and showered at work after their shift. The employees apparently did not present evidence that they has known exposures to the chemicals each day, and the employer did pay for this wash time when an employee had a known exposure.

When Showering At the End of a Shift Is Time “Worked” for Pay Purposes

The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals recently decided the appeal of employees asking to be paid for time spent washing off at the end of a shift, which would sometimes cause overtime. The Seventh Circuit is the federal appellate court covering cases arising in Wisconsin and other states in the Midwest. In Musch v. Domtar Industries, Inc., 587 F.3d 857 (7th Cir. 2009), the court affirmed the trial court’s decision to dismiss the employees’ claim to pay for the time spent washing at the end of a shift, even though these employees worked in an environment where they may have been exposed to hazardous chemicals, though the plaintiffs apparently did not present evidence that they were actually exposed on a regular basis and the employer did pay for time spent washing after a known exposure. The rationale behind the opinion is that washing at the end of the shift, where employees do not have a known exposure to hazardous chemicals, is for the convenience of the employee and not the employer. Since the wash time is not a principal activity of the employees’ work or related to a principal activity, it is not “work” and therefore the employer need not pay the employees for their time spent washing up.

UPS May Settle Overtime & Benefits Claims by Independent Contractors

UPS Supply Chain Solutions and its delivery drivers that were classified as independent contractors are close to entering a nationwide class action settlement. UPS classified the drivers as independent contractors, which means the drivers were not paid for overtime, 1.5 times the regular rate of pay for every hour over 40 in a week, and did not receive employment benefits like health insurance. UPS says that it is changing the way it uses independent contractors because of this lawsuit. This lawsuit shows that employers may attempt to avoid paying workers overtime and other benefits of employment by misclassifying someone as an independent contractor while still maintaining control over the worker to such an extent that the classification is unlawful and wrongly denies the worker overtime pay and benefits.