A new settlement between Wal-Mart and the U.S. Labor Department is costing the retailer $33 million in back pay and interest.
The settlement involves a violation of U.S. and Mississippi minimum wage laws. Salaried interns, manager trainees and programmer trainees were improperly paid, working long hours without overtime. Even many salaried employees, contrary to popular assumption, are entitled to overtime pay, provided they fall under certain guidelines regarding their duty and their pay level.
You may think that if you’re paid by salary rather than wage, you’re not covered by federal and Mississippi minimum wage laws. That’s not true. Under the law, many salaried people must be paid overtime. There are exceptions, depending on job duties. Only salaried managers in key decision-making roles in a store, division or department may work beyond 40 hours per week without overtime. The authority is usually defined as having the right to hire and fire more than three employees. And then it only applies if their salaries are over a certain ceiling.
Recent guidelines demand that anyone making less than $23,600 a year (or $455 a week) must be paid overtime when they work more than 40 hours a week.
To be an exempt employee, and as a result subject to work weeks longer than 40 hours but without overtime pay, you must fall under certain guidelines. One is that you must make more than $455 a week, or $23,600 annually. Second, you must be in a decision-making or supervisory role in your division, department or store. More specifically, that applies in most cases to somebody who has the authority to hire and fire more than three people.
The case settled does not mean the end of troubles for Wal-Mart. The settlement addresses only those violations specifically mentioned in the consent judgment and won’t affect any future action – whether lawsuits or any Wal-Mart workers’ right to file Labor Department complaints.
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