American 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.