The number of lawsuits by employees in Florida is on the rise, hitting record levels in Jacksonville. That’s because the recession, although supposedly over, continues to be seen in continuing layoffs and high unemployment numbers.
The Jacksonville numbers mirror a growing trend nationwide of employers that want to hang onto every cent in these trying times.
Unfortunately for them, there are laws protecting the employee. The New Deal legislation drafted during the Great Depression outlaws child labor and sets a minimum wage that is guaranteed. Amendments guaranteed employees a right to overtime pay.
Many disputes involve overtime.
When a man was hired at a 185-bed Youth Academy in Hastings, Florida, as a therapist, he was told he was a salaried employee. When he worked fewer than 40 hours a week, his pay was docked. But when he worked overtime hours, more than 40 hours a week, as he often did, he was not paid overtime.
The man complained, as did other case managers, and when that didn’t work, he sued. He says the company owes him tens of thousands of dollars. His law firm believes that he is not alone and is exploring whether the employer violated the law with other employees.
Starbucks has also been sued by Florida employees for failing to pay overtime in violation of federal law. The case has been granted a conditional class-action status because there are so many Florida Starbucks managers with the same claim. Starbucks has already had to pay $100 million in unpaid tips and interest to workers in California last year.
Working “off-the-clock” is a common scam that employers use to avoid paying overtime. If you are ordered to perform work-related tasks either before clocking in or after clocking out, you also may be eligible to file a lawsuit, as the employer is violating the law.
For the hourly worker, the standard is 40 hours a week. The minimum wage set by the state January 1, 2009 was $7.21 an hour. On July 24, 2009, the federal minimum wage rose to $7.25 an hour. That means Florida employers must compensate their workers at a minimum wage of $7.25 an hour as well. Paying them less is illegal.
It is up to the employee to alert their employees whenever there is a change in the minimum wage. Generally, they will post this information in a public place at work.
Some employees complain that just asking about overtime is what led to their firing. The law also prohibits any retaliatory action for exercising your rights under the law. Do not hesitate to contact a Jacksonville workers’ compensation attorney to represent you if you’ve been demoted, fired, or had your pay cut.
Remember that Florida is a state that is very friendly to employers and less tolerant of labor unions and complaints by workers.
But the law is clear. You can receive your back pay, attorneys’ fees and can receive an amount equal to back pay in double damages, and your employer can be fined for violating the law.
Remember, under Florida law you have up to four years to file a claim, and if the employer’s action was willful you have up to five years. But it does not pay to wait in case you have any questions.