Showing posts with label employment law. Show all posts
Showing posts with label employment law. Show all posts

Thursday, August 11, 2016

See you in court: New overtime rule means more litigation for Georgia employers

With the new overtime rule effective December 1, 2016, more Georgia employers can expect to be facing their employees and former employees in court.

The new rule raises the minimum salary threshold for exemption from overtime pay from the current $455/week to $913/week ($47,476 per year) and automatically increases the threshold every three years based on wage growth over time.

In Georgia, overtime rules are enforced by the Wage and Hour Division of the U.S. Department of Labor. The agency has the authority to order back wage payments and impose fines for employers who violate the law, but the agency is already dealing with a backlog of complaints and the new rule will only add to their burden of cases.

As a result, more employees and former employees will be turning to private employment attorneys to defend their rights in court.

For companies, this will mean spending substantial amount of time in court defending their job classification systems.

As Atlanta television station WXIA-TV recently discovered when reporting on a story involving a local restaurant, the agency is already struggling to enforce the existing law, and the new rule will simply add to their current backlog.

The television station found that since 2000 Georgia companies did not pay 89,766 employees more than $62 million.

While WHD can impose fines, it is highly unusual, as the television reporter found that of the 6,582 Georgia companies cited by USDOL for wage theft, only 8 percent were required to pay a fine.

The new rule will especially impact employees currently classified as first-level supervisors in low-wage industries such as restaurants and retailing where supervisory duties are mixed with directly dealing with customers.

Filing a lawsuit has always been an option under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), but with the Wage and Hour Division’s failure to keep up with complaints, it is increasingly likely that civil lawsuits will become preferable to waiting months for an investigation.

A successful lawsuit for back wages can run into $100,000's or more, as employers who lose in court will have to immediately pay both back wages and attorney fees for both sides, not to mention any appeals process.

In comparison, normally the Labor Department is satisfied to see back wages paid, sometimes setting up a payment plan where employers can pay in installments until their obligations are met.

With a potential avalanche of lawsuits facing Georgia companies, many of which are small and medium size employers without in-house legal staff, companies may learn that an administrative investigation by the U.S. Department of Labor is preferable to spending hundreds of hours in court and spending thousands of dollars defending their positions.

If you are one of the 89,766 employees or former employees who thinks you may be owed back wages collected by the U.S. Department of Labor's Wage and Hour Division, you can search their database at by the employer's name and submit a claim.