The employer-employee relationship should be based on a simple principle. You work hard and expect fair compensation in return. At both the federal and state level, there are laws in place to ensure that employers respect this principle, from the minimum wage to overtime pay requirements. Unfortunately, employers sometimes use devious tactics in an attempt to bypass these regulations and cheat their employees, all to protect their bottom line. Workers who are taken advantage of through such practices can feel like they’re in a hopeless situation — after all, the company probably has far more resources at its disposal than the average worker does. If you’re in one of these situations, you should know that you’re not powerless, and you’re not alone.
At Harman Law, we fight hard every day for hard-working employees in North Carolina who have been victimized by overtime and wage violations, because we believe in the principle of fairness underlying the working relationship. If you have been unfairly denied overtime or illegally paid below minimum wage in the Greater Charlotte and Lake Norman area, our overtime and wage lawyers can help you to hold your employer accountable and to begin receiving the compensation you’re due.
Understanding overtime and wage laws
Each state is subject to both the Federal Fair Labor Standards Act(FLSA) and its own employment laws. In North Carolina, we have a law known as the Wage and Hour Act. While some states’ employment laws set minimum wage and overtime requirements that go beyond the FLSA, the North Carolina Wage and Hour Act essentially echoes the FLSA’s requirements on these issues.
The current minimum wage in North Carolina is $7.25 per hour. This is the same as the federal minimum wage set in the FLSA because our Wage and Hour Act says that the state minimum wage will be set at either $6.15 per hour or the federal minimum wage, whichever is higher. There are some exceptions to the $7.25 minimum wage, most notably waiters and other employees who work for tips. For these workers, employers can count their tips as a ‘credit’ toward a portion of the $7.25 minimum wage and must pay them a minimum of $2.13 per hour on top of whatever tips they might earn. If you are making less than $7.25 in a job without tips, or less than $2.13 per hour in a job with tips, your employer may be violating your rights under federal and state law.
Both federal and state law defines anything over 40 hours of work per week as overtime. If you have worked more than 40 hours in a week, you are entitled to additional compensation, with some limited exceptions. The FLSA and Wage and Hour Act both set overtime pay at one-and-a-half times your regular wage. If you have worked more than 40 hours in a week and have not been paid one-and-a-half times your regular rate for those additional hours, your employer may be violating your rights under federal and state law.
Filing a claim against your employer
If you believe you have not been fairly compensated for your work, an overtime and wage lawyer from Harman Law can help you determine whether your employer has broken the law. If they have, you can file a claim with the North Carolina Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Bureau. The Department of Labor can force your employer to compensate you for money they should have already paid you and more, including:
- Back-pay equal to the difference between what you should have earned under minimum wage and overtime requirements and what you were actually paid
- Interest on your back-pay
- ‘Liquidated damages’ equal to the amount of back-pay you’re due
- Legal fees and other expenses you paid to fight your claim
Of course, to win your complaint with the Department of Labor, you will have to make a strong case that your employer was breaking the law. This is where an experienced North Carolina wage and overtime lawyer comes in. A lawyer from Harman Law will help you to gather the proper evidence, including pay stubs, time sheets, and more, and to pinpoint precisely what laws this evidence shows that your employer broke. Making a proper case is a crucial step in successfully winning the compensation you deserve, and having an experienced attorney by your side can be immensely helpful in this step.
Example of a North Carolina wage claim
All of these numbers and multipliers can be confusing in the abstract, so let’s apply them to an example case to see how they work. Suppose that Mary works in a textile factory and does not receive tips. Her employer only pays her $6.25 an hour, even though the minimum wage in North Carolina is $7.25. After a year on the job, Mary realizes that she is being illegally underpaid, and she files a complaint against her employer with the Department of Labor. A North Carolina wage lawyer helps her make her case, and she successfully proves that her employer was underpaying her for an entire year.
Since Mary was paid $6.25 instead of $7.25, she was underpaid by $1.00 per hour. She worked 40 hours per week for the entire 52 weeks of the year, or 2,080 hours total. Multiplying the amount she was underpaid by the number of hours, this means that her employer owes her $2,080 in back-pay. She could also potentially win:
- An additional $2,080 in liquidated damages
- 8% interest on her back-pay, for a total of $166.40
- Compensation for her legal fees
This example goes to show how much a seemingly small pay violation can add up. Before accounting for legal fees, Mary’s case was worth $4,326.40, even though she was only underpaid by $1.00 an hour.
If you have been illegally underpaid or denied overtime, you are entitled to compensation from your employer for this unfair treatment. An experienced overtime and wage lawyer from Harman Law can help you put together a strong claim to increase your chances of winning full and fair compensation. For more information on how we can help, call us now at (704) 885-5550.