As an employee in the state of North Carolina, you are entitled to fair wages for the hours you work. But some employers ignore this basic right, putting them in violation of state and federal wage and hour laws.
If you notice your paycheck is too low or if you do not get the overtime pay you earned, you could have a valid case against your employer under federal law. By taking legal action you may hold your employer accountable and recover the unpaid wages you are due. Call an unpaid wages lawyer in Charlotte at Stephan Zouras, LLP to discuss your legal options: 704-612-0038.
What is the Fair Labor Standards Act?
Established in 1938, the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) ensures that workers receive minimum wages and overtime for the work they do. FLSA contains rules and regulations about the following:
Generally, employers must pay employees a minimum wage, as specified by the FLSA and North Carolina law. North Carolina’s minimum wage is $7.25 per hour.
Under the FLSA, employers may pay tipped employees $2.13 an hour as long as the employee’s tips bring their compensation up to the minimum wage and the employer complies with the FLSA’s tip credit provisions. The FLSA also allows employers to pay certain wage earners, such as full-time students and apprentices, 75 percent of the minimum wage.
Employers must pay any non-exempt employees overtime. As a general rule, the overtime pay calculation is one-and-a-half times the worker’s regular rate of pay for any work hours exceeding a typical 40-hour workweek. For example, if you receive $16 an hour, your overtime pay would be $24 per hour. If you are paid a salary, piece rate, or a day rate, you still might be eligible for overtime.
What is the North Carolina Wage and Hour Act?
The North Carolina Wage and Hour Act (NCWHA) requires that employers pay earned regular wages to North Carolina employees. This includes final paychecks, commissions and earned vacation pay. In addition, the NCWHA requires that employers pay overtime and minimum wages to certain employees who are not covered by the federal FLSA.
North Carolina state law also requires that employers pay their employees according to scheduled pay periods. This pay period may be daily, weekly, bi-weekly, semi-monthly, or monthly. When your employment terminates, you are entitled to your final paycheck, plus any earned vacation or personal time, on the next usual pay day following the date your employment terminates.
In addition, some companies refuse to pay employees for the work they perform. In some cases, when a company is struggling, employers may decide to temporarily withhold wages from employees or delay wage payments. In either case, employees have the right to sue their employer to recover unpaid wages.
What types of violations could lead to a claim?
While the FLSA and the North Carolina Wage and Hour Act requires employers to abide by these regulations, not all do. Some of these violations are obvious, but some require exhaustive investigative work to uncover – and prove – illegal wage practices. In fact, there are quite a few tricks employers use to cheat employees, but here are some of the most common violations we see:
Minimum Wage Violations
Common violations of minimum wage laws include:
- Paying less than the minimum wage (i.e., either less than $7.25 or $2.13 plus $5.13 in tip credit).
- Deducting too much from paychecks.
- Failing to pay employees for all hours worked (i.e., making employees work off the clock).
- Cash register shortages (i.e., taking money out of an employee’s pay to cover a register shortage).
- Uniform costs (i.e., an employer cannot require an employee pay for a uniform if it would make employee’s pay dip below minimum wage).
- Underpayment due to commission work. (I.e., if you receive commission instead of salary, your employer must ensure your commission pay equals minimum wage; for example, if you are working during a slow time and only two customers come in, your employer must pay the difference between your commission and minimum wage.)
Some overtime violations include:
- Not paying employees overtime
- Classifying non-exempt employees as exempt
- Failing to pay employees for all hours worked (i.e., requiring employees to do work-related tasks off the clock)
- Time clock rounding (i.e., when an employer rounds your time worked down to the hour, even if you worked 7 hours and 13 minutes)
- Independent contractor misclassification (i.e. treating workers who should be employees as if they are independent contractors)
Employers will of course deny allegations of wage and hour violations. It is up to the employee – with representation from their attorney – to prove that these violations occurred and then establish how much the employer owes the employee. This requires a lot of document review and solid legal argument.
Failure to Pay Promised Wages
Wage payment issues stem from employers:
- Failing pay employees on their regularly scheduled paydays
- Failing to pay all wages workers have earned
- Not paying workers at all
- Failing to pay earned vacation pay
- Failing to pay earned commissions
Employers who fail to pay wages in a timely fashion may be liable for unpaid wages, interest, and liquidated damages equal to unpaid wages.
What types of employees are most commonly affected by FLSA violations?
Certain workers are more likely to be victims of FLSA violations. These include:
- Misclassified independent contractors
- Restaurant employees
- Retail employees
- Home healthcare employees
- Call center employees
What should I do if I have not received proper pay?
The first thing you should do if you believe your employer is violating your right to a fair wage is start gathering evidence. Make sure that you keep all of your timecards or timesheets and all of your paystubs, and take notes of what days you worked without pay.
Do not quit your job. Under North Carolina law, as well as the FLSA, you have a legal right to continue working, free from retaliation, even if you file a lawsuit to collect your unpaid wages.
Once you have gathered evidence, speak to an attorney and bring all of the documentation and evidence of unpaid wages. An attorney will identify any wage and hour violations and will get to work filing a lawsuit to hold your employer liable for wage theft.
Speak with a Charlotte Wage and Hour Investigation Lawyer
If you have done work for your employer, you have the right to receive full and fair compensation for that work.
Charlotte, NC Attorney Phil Gibbons has years of experience recovering unpaid wages for employees.
Contact Phil Gibbons for a free consultation: 704-612-0038.