Employee classifications and underpaying hourly workers

On Behalf of | May 21, 2020 | Wages & Hours

New York employees rightfully expect their employers to treat them well and pay them fairly for the hours they’ve worked. Unfortunately, this does not always happen, and employers could underpay their workers. Sometimes, employees may not be aware this is happening right away, but they may eventually notice that their pay is not as high as it should be.

This is wage theft, and it happens when employers do intentional things to underpay workers to save themselves money. One common way they do this is by misclassifying employees. You are either exempt or non-exempt, and your classification determines whether you are eligible for overtime pay and minimum wage. It is in your interests to know what your classification should be and how to proceed if your employer put you in the wrong category.

What’s the right category? 

The right category for an employee depends on the nature of the individual job. According to the Fair Labor Standards Act, non-exempt employees are those who are eligible for overtime pay for working and minimum wage. Consider the following:

  • Overtime for non-exempt employees must equal time and a half for every hour worked over the standard 40 hours per week.
  • An employer cannot ask a non-exempt employee for off-the-clock work without properly documenting the work and paying the appropriate hourly rate.

Exempt employees are those who are not eligible for overtime pay or a minimum wage per hour because they receive a salary from their employer. They make more than $23,600 per year, and they perform certain exempt job tasks, such as management duties. If you are paid by the hour and are not in management, it is likely you are a non-exempt employee.

Misclassifying employees

By classifying non-exempt employees as exempt, employers can avoid paying more in overtime and minimum wage. If you do not think your pay is high enough or your employer asks you to do work-related tasks off the clock, it is possible you are a victim of wage theft. You do not have to stay silent on this matter.

It may be appropriate to have an attorney review your situation. You may have grounds to move forward with a claim against your employer, which would allow you to seek back pay and appropriate compensation for what you went through. When it is your financial well-being on the line, you do not want to waste any time in exploring the options available to you.