Everyone who works in the U.S. has certain rights, including a guaranteed minimum wage, a 40-hour work week (and overtime if one works more, unless exempted), and the right to be free from exploitation. However, sometimes these rights do get tested by employers looking to squeeze out a profit, with pay-related claims being among the most common. If you have reason to believe that you are not being paid as you should be, you would file what is called a wage and hour claim.
Claims over fair pay and overtime are governed by the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), which is a federal statute enacted in 1938. Many jobs are exempt, either by statute or simply excluded from the language of the act. For example, many truck drivers are already covered by the Motor Carriers Act, and thus are exempt from FLSA requirements and claims. Even if your job is not exempt, however, you may be exempt according to your position.
If you are not exempt, and you believe that you are not receiving the amount of pay that you are due, it may be a good idea to file a complaint to compel payment. Employers have only very limited occasions where it is permissible to withhold pay. They can, of course, hold portions of it for things like Social Security and Medicaid, but not the entire check. The Wage and Hour Division of the U.S. Department of Labor oversees FLSA cases, and it is this agency that you should contact if you believe you may have a payment problem.
Fighting On More Than One Front?
Potentially unfair or unlawful withholding of your pay is never acceptable, but sometimes, this type of claim must be fought on two fronts, because a small set of employers will use this type of claim as basis to unfairly terminate or otherwise penalize a person who files one. Retaliation claims are the most commonly brought to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), making up almost half of all claims.
If you are retaliated against for filing a wage and hour claim, you have options. You can file a charge either with the EEOC or with the South Carolina Human Affairs Commission (SCHAC). You have slightly longer to file with the SCHAC than you would with the EEOC—360 days to 180, comparatively. Regardless of which agency you choose to file with, if you are able to show that your demotion or termination was related to protected activity—which a wage & hour claim generally is—you may have a case for wrongful termination. To be certain, however, it may be a good idea to consult an attorney.
Seek Experienced Legal Help
When it comes down to it, the important thing to remember in this type of situation is that every worker deserves to have their rights respected. Withholding pay wrongly infringes upon your rights. If you need help navigating wage & hour claims, or retaliation claims, A. Christopher Potts has been handling these cases for many years. He is happy to sit down with you to give you some guidance with your case. Contact Hitchcock & Potts today to schedule an appointment.