Getting the Overtime Pay You Deserve

Web Admin - Tuesday, June 07, 2016

overtime pay you deserve, Illinois Employment Law Attorneys Countless workers in Illinois are eligible for overtime compensation when they work more than their standard work week worth of hours. For those overtime compensation eligible workers, once 40 hours of work is put in for a week, anything above and beyond that should be compensated at a rate of time and a half. Workers who are typically eligible for overtime pay protections are general laborers (not agricultural laborers), workers who are compensated through tips, and many blue collar workers. Some salaried workers may also be eligible, depending on their circumstances. 

Anyone who believes that they have been wrongly denied compensation for overtime hours that they have worked should consult with an experienced employment law attorney at our law office. Our professionals can help you determine if you are eligible for overtime compensation by your employer. 

Workers’ Overtime Compensation Rights Under the Law

Certain workers are eligible for overtime compensation at a rate of time-and-a-half under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). The FLSA is a federal law which protects workers from grueling hours without pay. A worker who believes that he or she has been wrongly denied overtime pay can file a claim with the wage and hour division of the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL). The DOL will review the employee’s claim, and will determine whether an investigation needs to be conducted into the alleged violation of the FLSA by the employee’s employer. 

When the employee’s claim is found to be valid, the DOL will pursue the back wages from the employer on the worker’s behalf. The employee can also sue his or her employer for owed back wages as well. 

Under the FLSA and Illinois law, workers who are executives, administrators, professionals, and some computer workers who earn at least $455 a week are exempt from overtime compensation. This means that these workers are not entitled to overtime pay if they work more than their standard 40-hour work week. Independent contracts, and some live-in employees are also exempt from unpaid overtime protections. External sales people are also often exempt from overtime pay protection laws. 

There are several exemptions to the overtime pay laws, and these exemptions can be confusing. Tests are used to determine if a worker qualifies for protection, and sometimes it is difficult to determine whether you are eligible under the laws or not. An experienced employment law attorney can help you assess your eligibility for unpaid overtime compensation protection. 

If you are concerned that your employer is not compensating you for overtime that you have worked, and you believe that you are eligible for overtime pay protection under the FLSA and Illinois law, you should consult with an Illinois employment law attorneys today. Our law firm serves the communities of Crystal Lake, Des Plaines, Rolling Meadows, Buffalo Grove, Barrington, Inverness, and Deer Park. Please call 847-934-6000 to speak to a member of our team.

      Ken Apicella

      About the Author: Attorney Ken Apicella is a founding partner of DGAA focusing in the areas of personal injury, employment, insurance coverage disputes, and civil litigation. Ken earned his J.D. from DePaul University College of Law in 1999. He has been named a SuperLawyers Rising Star and a Forty Illinois Attorneys Under Forty to Watch. Ken has written and lectured for the Illinois Institute for Continuing Legal Education and regularly serves as a moderator at Northwest Suburban Bar Association's Continuing Legal Education seminars.


Severance Agreements

Web Admin - Tuesday, January 12, 2016

severance agreements, Illinois employment law attorneyIndividuals who are facing termination from employment may be offered a severance package. The terms of this package are contained within a severance agreement. Employees facing termination should pay careful attention to the terms placed within the agreement and be sure that they understand what the terms mean before signing. 

Provisions in Severance Agreements

Severance agreements are important to employers and employees. For employers, they provide protection against the employee filing a lawsuit against the employer in the future. For employees, the agreement describes what payment and benefits they will receive. Additionally, provisions can be included to protect against what will be said to future prospective employers about the reasons for the termination. The following are several of the most common issues that are addressed in severance agreements: 

- Severance Pay: Payment for the termination is usually offered in some term of weeks (for example, five weeks of pay). It is common for the offer to be based on the length of employment, such as one week of pay for each year of employment.

- Vacation Pay: Employees are entitled to payment for earned, but unused vacation time.

- Non-compete Agreement: If the employer and employee entered into a non-compete agreement, the employer should provide a copy of it to the employee and remind him or her of the terms and conditions. Additionally, changes to the non-compete can be made during severance negotiations and placed in the agreement.

- Returning Equipment: A discussion of what happens to any property of the employer (such as a company phone, laptop, or keycards) that is in the possession of the employee should be included in the agreement. This provision should explain how and by what date the property must be returned.

- Future Jobs: For the terminated employee, it is likely that he or she will be searching for a new job. In that case, it is important for the employee and his or her former employer to agree on how the employer will communicate with prospective employers. If the employee and employer give different reasons for the termination, it can be detrimental in the search for a new job. Additionally, the parties may enter into a non-disparagement clause, which states that neither of them will make disparaging remarks about the other to third parties. A non-disparagement clause should specifically define what cannot be said.

- Claims Waived: This is often the most important provision for employers. Under this provision, the employee relinquishes any right to file a lawsuit against the employer. It should define all of the types of claims and lawsuits that are barred.

- Employees Over 40 Years Old: These types of employees are protected by the Older Workers Benefit Protection Act (OWBPA). Workers 40 years of age and older must be given 21 days to review the severance agreement prior to signing it. Further, they have seven days after signing the agreement to change their mind and revoke it. 

Helping Employees 

If you are faced with a severance agreement negotiation, you should contact a skilled Illinois employment law attorney as soon as possible. Our team can help you understand the provisions in severance agreements, which can help you secure benefits and protect your rights. We proudly represent individuals the communities of Crystal Lake, Schaumburg, Palatine, Des Plaines, Rolling Meadows, Buffalo Grove, Barrington, Arlington Heights, Inverness, and Deer Park. We look forward to hearing from you. 

      Ken Apicella

      About the Author: Attorney Ken Apicella is a founding partner of DGAA focusing in the areas of personal injury, employment, insurance coverage disputes, and civil litigation. Ken earned his J.D. from DePaul University College of Law in 1999. He has been named a SuperLawyers Rising Star and a Forty Illinois Attorneys Under Forty to Watch. Ken has written and lectured for the Illinois Institute for Continuing Legal Education and regularly serves as a moderator at Northwest Suburban Bar Association's Continuing Legal Education seminars.

Source: http://www.eeoc.gov/eeoc/history/35th/thelaw/owbpa.html

Misclassification of Employees

Web Admin - Thursday, November 19, 2015

    misclassification of employees, Illinois employment law attorneyIndividuals who are performing work for a business entity are generally either classified as independent contractors or employees. The difference between the two classifications is important; being considered an employee entitles individuals to greater benefits than independent contractors receive. Unfortunately, whether intentionally or not, the misclassification of employees occurs, and can end up costing employees access to significant benefits. 

    Classifying Workers 

    An independent contractor provides a good or service while retaining control over how that good or service is provided or performed. Moreover, an independent contractor will often treat the entity that he or she provides the work for more like a customer or client, rather than an employer. Frequently, an independent contractor will be performing similar work for multiple entities. 

    If a person performing work is considered an independent contractor, the business entity can avoid providing the person with the benefits that employees are entitled to. Some of these benefits include workers’ compensation, overtime pay, insurance, minimum wage, and family or medical leave. By avoiding these benefits, the entity can enjoy significant cost savings, which can create a competitive advantage over similar businesses. However, this comes at the expense of the individuals the entity employs. 

    Under the Illinois Unemployment Insurance Act, a presumption of employment exists that must be rebutted by the entity in order to lawfully classify the individual performing work as an independent contractor. Specifically, an individual performing services for a business entity is considered an employee unless it is proven that:

    1. The individual is free from the entity’s control or direction over the performance of the work, both under the terms of the contract and in fact;

    2. The service provided is outside of the normal course of the business or is completely performed outside of all of the places of business of the entity; and

    3. The individual is part of an independently created trade, occupation, profession or business. 

    Under the Illinois Employee Classification Act, a construction worker is considered an independent contractor if the above test is met or if the worker is a sole proprietor or partnership. 

    Holding Employers Liable 

    The Illinois Department of Labor, as well as various other government agencies, is responsible for enforcing state laws that govern employee misclassification. Consequences for misclassifying employees as independent contractors include the assessment of interest on late or delinquent unemployment insurance trust contributions and financial penalties. An employer that does not obtain workers’ compensation insurance can be fined up to $500 for every day that it is non-compliant, with a minimum fine of $10,000. It is also possible for an individual to file a personal lawsuit against his or her employer to recover damages such as wages, back overtime pay, or other lost benefits. 

    If you believe that you have been misclassified as an independent contractor, it is important to contact an experienced Illinois employment law attorney as soon as possible. There are potentially significant benefits that you have been denied as a result of that misclassification. Our firm proudly helps individuals in communities throughout the northwest suburbs, including Crystal Lake, Schaumburg, Palatine, Des Plaines, Rolling Meadows, Deer Park, Inverness, Arlington Heights, Barrington, and Buffalo Grove. 

      Ken Apicella

      About the Author: Attorney Ken Apicella is a founding partner of DGAA focusing in the areas of personal injury, employment, insurance coverage disputes, and civil litigation. Ken earned his J.D. from DePaul University College of Law in 1999. He has been named a SuperLawyers Rising Star and a Forty Illinois Attorneys Under Forty to Watch. Ken has written and lectured for the Illinois Institute for Continuing Legal Education and regularly serves as a moderator at Northwest Suburban Bar Association's Continuing Legal Education seminars.




    New Law Mandates Reasonable Accommodations for Pregnant Women

    Web Admin - Thursday, December 11, 2014

    pregnant woman wrongful termination, employee rights lawyerDiscrimination against pregnant women in the workforce has long been a concern, and now the Illinois legislature has passed a new law designed to help give women greater protection. The new law modifies the Illinois Human Rights Act, effective starting next year, to more clearly protect pregnant women's rights. The new rights include the right to reasonable accommodation of their pregnancy by their employers, protection from employment discrimination, and protection from forced leave. The law also grants employers some protection from unreasonable demands, such as the ability to refuse accommodations if such accommodations would place an undue hardship on the business.

    New Rights for Pregnant Women

    The law includes four new rights for “women affected by pregnancy, childbirth, or medical or common conditions related to childbirth.” The most legally complex of these rights is the right to a reasonable accommodation of their pregnancy. These accommodations are changes to the employee’s duties or their workspace that allow the employee to perform the “essential duties” of the position. The law provides some examples of these reasonable accommodations, which may include things like more frequent bathroom breaks, private space for breastfeeding, or a modified work schedule.

    The law also provides another set of more concrete rights to pregnant women. For instance, employers may not force accommodations onto a pregnant woman if she does not want them, a provision that is likely designed to protect women from being forced to modify or reduce their work schedules. Similarly, the law forbids an employer from forcing a pregnant woman to take maternity leave if she chooses not to.

    Employer's Rights

    The law also includes a new set of rights for employers that relate to the issue of reasonable accommodation. The first right is that employers can claim that the accommodation the woman is asking for would place an undue hardship on the company. The law defines undue hardship as “an action that is prohibitively expensive or disruptive.” It also provides four factors for judges to consider when determining whether something is an undue hardship:

    1. 1. The nature and cost of the accommodations;
    2. 2. The financial resources of the facility providing the accommodation and the accommodation's impact on the company's operations;
    3. 3. The resources and size of the employer; and
    4. 4. The type of work the employer does.

    This provides a highly individualized test that depends greatly on both the specific employer and the accommodation requested. The law also provides the employer with the right to request medical documentation supporting the need for the accommodation.

    If you believe that your rights under this new act are being violated or if you are an employer concerned about your obligations under the new law, contact a Crystal Lake employment law attorney today. Our firm helps many northwest suburban employees and businesses in towns like Rolling Meadows, Crystal Lake, Arlington Heights, Inverness, Deer Park, Palatine, and Barrington.

    Ken ApicellaAbout the Author: Attorney Ken Apicella is a founding partner of DGAA focusing in the areas of personal injury, employment, insurance coverage disputes, and civil litigation. Ken earned his J.D. from DePaul University College of Law in 1999. He has been named a SuperLawyers Rising Star and a Forty Illinois Attorneys Under Forty to Watch. Ken has written and lectured for the Illinois Institute for Continuing Legal Education and regularly serves as a moderator at Northwest Suburban Bar Association's Continuing Legal Education seminars.

    Payment for Unauthorized Overtime

    Web Admin - Friday, September 19, 2014

    payment for unauthorized overtime, Palatine employment law attorneyThe law related to wage and hour violations is a complex legal area that touches virtually every employee. These laws lay out employees' rights with regard to things like when they may be paid, how much they must be paid, and the various overtime rules. The overtime rules are some of the most difficult, and can often lead to violations by employers, either knowingly or simply by virtue of not understanding their full complexity. Regardless of the reason for the violation, employees should be aware of their legal rights so that they can enforce them in case something goes wrong.

    One of the most common issues that arises with overtime is the idea of “unauthorized overtime.” Many companies have a policy in place that requires employees to get supervisor permission before they work overtime, because overtime switches them to an increased hourly salary. However, this policy can cause confusion when an employee works unauthorized overtime. Some companies refuse to pay workers extra for unauthorized overtime work, but that refusal is a violation of federal law.

    The Fair Labor Standards Act

    The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) is the major piece of federal legislation governing things like overtime pay and wage and hour violations. For the purposes of the question about unauthorized overtime, the important section is 203(g), which defines the word employ. A company employs someone when it “suffer[s] or permit[s]” the person to work. Such a broad definition of the word employ means that even if the company has not authorized the overtime hours, they are still allowing the overtime work to happen. The fact that they allowed it at all means that the employee must be paid properly for their time, regardless of any company policy. However, employers are still allowed to take certain steps related to authorizing overtime.

    What Employers May Do

    Just because employers must pay their workers for unauthorized overtime does not mean that they are not allowed to have a system for approving overtime beforehand. Companies are allowed to decide whether they want their employees working extra time or would rather simply have the project completed at a later date. In fact, companies are even allowed to institute disciplinary procedures related to working overtime without the proper authorization. Yet, even with such procedures in place, if the employee still works overtime, they must be paid accordingly, even if they are also disciplined for violating the company policy related to unauthorized overtime.

    Employees who have been the victim of wage and hour violations often feel powerless to stand up to their employers. If you believe that you are owed extra overtime pay, contact a skilled Illinois employment lawyer today. Our dedicated team can help provide you with the backup you need to enforce your legal rights as an employee. We assist clients in Palatine, Des Plaines, Buffalo Grove, and those throughout the suburban Chicagoland area.

    About the Author: Attorney Ken Apicella is a founding partner of DGAA focusing in the areas of personal injury, employment, insurance coverage disputes, and civil litigation. Ken earned his J.D. from DePaul University College of Law in 1999. He has been named a SuperLawyers Rising Star and a Forty Illinois Attorneys Under Forty to Watch. Ken has written and lectured for the Illinois Institute for Continuing Legal Education and regularly serves as a moderator at Northwest Suburban Bar Association's Continuing Legal Education seminars.

    Common Methods of Wage Theft

    Web Admin - Tuesday, February 11, 2014

    illinois wage theft lawyerMore and more employees are facing issues related to wage theft. Even though many are not aware of what the term actually mean, legal claims related to it have been steadily rising in recent years.

    Broadly speaking, wage theft happens when an employer illegally deprives an employee of wages that they are owed. In some cases that can mean subverting laws that guarantee certain benefits to employees, like the minimum wage law, while in others it can simply mean not abiding by the agreement between the employer and the employee, both of which are violations of the law. Wage theft can be broken down into two categories based on the method the employer uses, methods relating to simply depriving the worker of money they are owed, and methods relating to improperly documenting the worker or their pay.

    Wage Deprivation

    Wage deprivation methods involve improper payroll practices designed to deprive an employee of their pay. The simplest method of this is an employer’s failure to pay their employees on time. This can include tactics like withholding an employee’s last paycheck or paying them for only certain hours or days worked, rather than paying for all their time.

    One common, similar method of wage theft involves withholding overtime pay. Under the Fair Labor Standards act, many employees are entitled to overtime if they work more than 40 hours a week. Employers often take advantage of confusion among employees as to whether they qualify and refuse to pay overtime. Fortunately, the Department of Labor maintains a guide explaining worker’s overtime rights.

    Documentation Issues

    Documentation issues are a slightly subtler version of wage theft. Rather than simply withholding wages, employers will adjust their payroll or misclassify employees to stop paying them everything that the employer owes them. One of the simplest documentation violations is agreeing to pay someone below the minimum wage ($8.25 currently), which is illegal. Employers may also adopt improper policies related to clocking-in, like forcing employees to work for a period in the morning before they start logging hours. These sorts of policies qualify as wage theft since employers owe employees for that time.

    Additionally, employers could improperly classify their employees as independent contractors. Independent contractor is a specific legal status related to the amount of freedom a worker has to set their hours and perform tasks as they see fit. Most workers a business hires will not fall into this category, but an employer may try to label employees as this since it allows the employer to avoid things like workers compensation insurance and payroll tax by shifting the burden to the worker.

    If you believe you have been a victim of wage theft, or have questions about your employer’s practices, get in contact with an Illinois employment lawyer. We serve clients in areas across the northwest suburbs such as Buffalo Grove, Barrington, and Arlington Heights.

    About the Author: Attorney Ken Apicella is a founding partner of DGAA focusing in the areas of personal injury, employment, insurance coverage disputes, and civil litigation. Ken earned his J.D. from DePaul University College of Law in 1999. He has been named a SuperLawyers Rising Star and a Forty Illinois Attorneys Under Forty to Watch. Ken has written and lectured for the Illinois Institute for Continuing Legal Education and regularly serves as a moderator at Northwest Suburban Bar Association's Continuing Legal Education seminars.

    Remedies for Unpaid Overtime in Illinois

    Web Admin - Thursday, February 06, 2014

    illinois unpaid overtime employment lawyerAmerican workers are facing a growing problem; their employers are failing to pay them overtime for extra hours that they worked. According to CNN, wage and hour claims have increased 400 percent in the last decade alone. Employers have a variety of tricks they can use to avoid paying employees the money they owe them. For instance, many employers improperly classify their workers as independent contractors, when they should actually be classified as employees.

    This allows employers to subvert overtime laws and shift some of their tax burden to the worker. Employers can also avoid paying overtime by instituting improper policies to prevent employees from logging all of their hours. This can include such practices as forcing employees to clock out for lunches through which they work, making employees show up for work and then wait to clock in until later, or forcing workers to work from home without tracking their hours.

    Fortunately, workers in Illinois have remedies available to them. Employees can bring suits for unpaid overtime under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”) and under the Illinois Minimum Wage law. However, employees should know that both laws provide different limits on the amounts that they can recover from their employer.

    The Fair Labor Standards Act

    The FLSA is a federal law that protects workers from wage violations. If an employee brings a suit under the FLSA to recover overtime, they can receive overtime pay that the employer owes them from the past two years. That time period may increase to three years if the employee can prove that their employer willfully violated the statute.

    A willful violation of the statute occurs if the employer “showed reckless disregard for the matter of whether their conduct violated the statute.” Additionally, in the case of such willful violations, the court may award “liquidated damages.” These extra damages can be as high as the initial amount of overtime owed, meaning the employee can receive twice the amount that the employer failed to pay them.

    The Illinois Minimum Wage Law

    Illinois also has a minimum wage law under which employees can sue in order to recover overtime pay. Employees can recover up to three years of back pay under this law, regardless of whether the employer willfully violated the law. However, suing under the Illinois law would deprive the employee of the opportunity to receive liquidated damages. Instead, the Illinois law provides for employees to receive two percent interest for each month that their employer owed them overtime.

    Do you have questions about your employer’s overtime practices, or think you may be eligible for overtime pay that you never received? Reach out to a Rolling Meadows employment lawyer today. Our firm operates in many northwest suburban areas including Barrington, Crystal Lake, and Palatine.

    About the Author: Attorney Ken Apicella is a founding partner of DGAA focusing in the areas of personal injury, employment, insurance coverage disputes, and civil litigation. Ken earned his J.D. from DePaul University College of Law in 1999. He has been named a SuperLawyers Rising Star and a Forty Illinois Attorneys Under Forty to Watch. Ken has written and lectured for the Illinois Institute for Continuing Legal Education and regularly serves as a moderator at Northwest Suburban Bar Association's Continuing Legal Education seminars.

    Retaliatory Discharge and Whistleblower Claims in Illinois

    Web Admin - Thursday, January 30, 2014

    illinois whistleblower employment lawyerIllinois law creates something called an “at-will” employment relationship between an employee and an employer. Ordinarily, this means that an employer may fire an employee for any reason or even no reason at all. But, Illinois law does create an exception in cases of retaliatory discharge.

    A retaliatory discharge occurs when an employer fires an employee for taking an action that is protected by either a statute or general public policy. One of the most common actions that gives rise to a retaliatory discharge claim is an employer's firing of an employee after “whistleblowing.” Whistleblowing means that an employee reported suspected illegal conduct by the employer to the government, and it is protected by 740 ILCS 174.

    Illinois Whistleblower Protection

    Illinois law provides statutory protection to whistleblowers, so that their employers cannot fire them in retaliation for their reporting. However, the law has a limited set of actions that qualify as whistleblowing for the purposes of legal protection. Employers may not fire their employees for reporting their illegal conduct to a government or law enforcement agency, testifying against them in court, or refusing to perform an illegal act. Furthermore, the information that the employee provides does not actually have to expose any illegal conduct on the part of the employer. Instead, the employee merely needs a reasonable belief that the information involves an illegal act.

    The law also contains a few other miscellaneous provisions. It prohibits employers from putting in place policies that that would prevent an employee from disclosing information that they believed involved an illegal act on the part of the employer. Additionally, the law includes a catch-all provision, designed to provide broader protection to whistleblowers. It forbids employers from retaliating against employees for attempting to expose any “public corruption or wrongdoing.”

    In addition to forbidding retaliatory discharge, the law also recognizes other types of actions as retaliation. Generally speaking, the law forbids employers to retaliate with “materially adverse employment actions.” While termination is certainly the most common, other things like demotions, pay cuts, transfers and shift changes may qualify under certain circumstances.

    In the event that the employee proves that they suffered retaliation, the law provides them with a variety of remedies, including:

    • • Reinstatement; 
    • • Back pay with interest; 
    • • and Compensation for damages from the violation.

    If you believe that you suffered a retaliatory discharge for whistleblowing or some other protected act, contact a Chicago employment lawyer today. Call 847-934-6000 to speak to a member of our team. We serve many Northwest Suburban areas including Barrington, Palatine, Schaumburg, and other surrounding communities.

    About the Author: Attorney Ken Apicella is a founding partner of DGAA focusing in the areas of personal injury, employment, insurance coverage disputes, and civil litigation. Ken earned his J.D. from DePaul University College of Law in 1999. He has been named a SuperLawyers Rising Star and a Forty Illinois Attorneys Under Forty to Watch. Ken has written and lectured for the Illinois Institute for Continuing Legal Education and regularly serves as a moderator at Northwest Suburban Bar Association's Continuing Legal Education seminars.

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