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3 Common FLSA Violations Employers Need To Know


Adhering to the provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) is critical when running an organization. FLSA violations can result in costly lawsuits.

Despite this, FLSA violations are more common than you may realize. There are many reasons this is the case. One is a simple fact that it is often possible to accidentally commit an FLSA violation.  The rules are complex and can easily be overlooked or misunderstood.

No single blog entry could cover all the potential FLSA violations. To avoid violations, it’s best to consult with legal counsel who can help you better understand what types of errors you could unknowingly be making.

The following are several common mistakes that can result in FLSA violations:

Improper Employee Classifications

Lawyers who practice in these areas frequently agree that employee classification is the most common FLSA-related error employers make. Employees who are exempt from minimum wage and overtime pay are the exception to the rule.  Often, employers classify workers as being exempt from the law’s minimum wage and overtime provisions when they are not.

This occurs, in part, because it’s not always easy to understand whether the duties of an employee qualify as those that support a minimum wage and overtime exemption. Generally, employees may be exempt from the law’s minimum wage and overtime provisions if they are paid a threshold amount and have positions that are “white collar” or managerial in nature. A thorough review of job duties is required for this analysis, as well as a clear understanding of the federal and state requirements.  Always remember that the states can have more stringent requirements (meaning more protective of employees) than the federal law, so both state and federal statutes and regulations must be reviewed.

Prepare though the job description and do so by consulting with those in your organization who know the details of job duties.  Review every new position for FLSA and state wage and hour compliance.  A self-audit conducted through legal counsel is recommended if you have concerns about the misclassification of employees.

Misunderstanding Working Time

Unless employees qualify as exempt from the FLSA’s minimum wage and overtime provisions, they must be paid one-and-half times their regular pay for any hours they work that are in excess of 40 hours in a workweek.

This seems to be a fairly basic principle. However, disputes can arise when it is unclear which activities do and do not constitute those performed during working hours. Working hours essentially begin when an employee has engaged in an initial “principal activity” that constitutes work.

For example, commuting time is not compensable, because an employee has either not begun work or has finished work during the time when they are commuting. However, if an employee must travel to and from a work site, the time spent on travel may be compensable.

This once again highlights the importance of coordinating with learned legal counsel when you have questions about the FLSA. Determining which hours an employee should be compensated for is not always as easy as you might assume.

Misunderstanding Breaks

The FLSA has its own set of provisions regarding whether employees should be paid for certain breaks, and state laws may be stricter than the federal requirements in this regard. Breaks that are unpaid must be tracked through a reliable time tracking system.  Breaks that are under 30 minutes must be paid.  Collective bargaining provisions can play a part in FLSA and state wage and hour requirements.

Again, these are just a few examples of the complexity of FLSA compliance. If you’ve been accused of an FLSA violation, or you are concerned about compliance, consult legal counsel to properly navigate the circumstances.

At N. Stotler Law, a Pittsburgh employment law attorney can walk you through these issues, helping you defend against accusations and avoid committing any FLSA violations in the future. Learn more by contacting us online or calling us at 724-841-5565.

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