Recently, ABC Professional Tree Services, a Houston-based company, was found to have violated both the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and Tennessee minimum wage laws. Because the company was found guilty in a Department of Labor investigation, it must pay 2,501 workers in several states back overtime pay totaling $1.8 million.
According to U.S. Secretary of Labor, Elaine L. Chao, “We pleased that we were able to help these workers get the back pay they deserve.” She added, “The department will continue our efforts to ensure that employers are paying workers properly.”
ABC Professional Tree Services specializes in cleaning up following a natural disaster, such as a hurricane. They trim and cut trees, plus offer other clean-up services near power lines for utility companies. Some of the back pay that is owed employees is from work done following Hurricane Katrina.
Working in cooperation with U.S. Attorneys from several states, the U.S. Department of Labor formed a task force. Created in 2006, the purpose of this task force is not only to investigate but also prosecute companies that violate labor laws in the region of the Gulf Coast. This task force specifically focuses on crimes that employers commit in the areas impacted by hurricanes, which includes Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Rita.
In the case of ABC Professional Tree Services, the business must pay workers back pay in New York, Arkansas, Maine, North Carolina, Mississippi, Maryland, Georgia, South Carolina, New Jersey, Virginia, Tennessee, Florida, Louisiana, Ohio, and Tennessee.
The way overtime must be handled according to FLSA is that employees must be paid at least $5.15 per hour, which is the minimum wage. Then, if employees work in excess of 40 hours during a week, they should be paid overtime at the rate of one-and-one-half their normal rate. The law makes it mandatory that employers keep time and payroll records that are accurate.
Employees at retail giant Wal-Mart, Inc., who worked long hours without overtime pay, have been vindicated by a settlement between the retailer and the U.S. Labor Department.
The suit involved violations of U.S. and Tennessee overtime laws. Almost 87,000 workers around the country and in Tennessee received $33 million in back pay, plus interest.
In the Wal-Mart case, almost 87,000 employees will receive the back pay. Wal-Mart is still vulnerable to litigation and workers may still make official complaints against the retailer with the U.S. Department of Labor.
According to the U.S. Department of Labor’s ruling, the employees in the Wal-Mart case were “non-exempted salaried” employees, and as such were entitled to the overtime pay. In the case, it was argued that the manager trainees had to work long hours but had virtually no decision-making authority and did not act as supervisors. In some cases they received less than the $23,600 exemption ceiling.
That is because the law also requires that to be exempted from the overtime law, a salaried manager must meet certain criteria. He or she must have major decision-making authority in a store, division or department, and have the capacity to hire and fire more than three employees.
In the Wal-Mart case, manager trainees had little power to make decisions and were not supervisors. Wal-Mart required them to work long hours, and some were even paid considerably below the $23,600 cutoff point.
The case harkens back to another in the early 1980’s when Howard Johnson’s tried to work around the law by hiring what were called “assistant managers,” but working them 80 or more hours a week doing dishing, waiting on customers, or busing tables. On that occasion also, the practice was stopped.
It’s not true that all salaried employees lack the protection of the overtime regulation. The guidelines require that the manager must have substantial decision-making authority and have the ability to hire and fire. Otherwise, he or she is still protected by the overtime law.
The state of Tennessee has no wage laws concerning overtime, as it doesn’t have any particular state laws regarding other wage issues such as the minimum wage or regulations for the management of salaried employees.
Tennessee then defers, as we’ve seen in other states, to the laws of the United States Department of Labor, from its Wage and Hour Division. The department is responsible for enforcing the federal laws on overtime and other wage issues. This law—and the name of it could start having a familiar ring to it after we’ve talked about it so much—is called the Fair Labor Standards Act.
The Fair Labor Standards Act, or FLSA for short, is the law that regulates most things wage, including minimum wage, overtime issues, and the management of salaried employees. For detailed information on he FLSA, Tennessee employers and employees could look into the U.S. Department of Labor’s Web site, specifically the one for the Wage and Hour Division.
Or Tennessee employers and employees could get a pretty basic understand of what the federal law on overtime says by reading this here blog. The basic tenet of the Fair Labor Standards Act when it comes to overtime is that the federal government considers the average work week to consist of 40 hours.
That means that overtime kicks in for employers and employees when the employee works more than those 40 hours in a week, or seven-day period. What happens then? The employee ought to get overtime premium pay, which amounts to one and a half times their normal hourly wage, for all time over that 40 hour cutoff in a work week.
It’s interesting to know that in Tennessee, the federal law doesn’t cover all employers. The federal law technically only is for interstate employers in Tennessee, those with more than $500,000 in yearly revenue, and hospitals, schools, and government institutions, among others.