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FLSA and Overtime Terms Glossary

The FLSA and overtime pay lawyers at Phillips Dayes Law Firm have helped a great number of employees recover back pay and additional damages in overtime and wage and hour lawsuits, so we understand that the terminology used in this field of law can be confusing to the average American worker.  We have compiled this glossary of FLSA and overtime law terms to help our current and prospective clients gain a better understanding of their rights.

Compensatory (“Comp.”) Time

It is not uncommon for employers to promise employees “comp. time” in lieu of overtime pay. Unless “comp. time” applies to government employees, this type of system is almost always illegal and employers who employ these systems likely owe their employees for unpaid overtime.

The Department of Labor

Department of Labor (DOL) is an agency of the federal government that regulates federal wage, hours, and employment laws. The DOL enforces the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and can also assist employees who are unable or unwilling to hire an attorney to defend their rights.

Exempt Employees

If an employee is classified as exempt, it means that he or she is not entitled to overtime pay under the FLSA. Exemption is determined by an employee’s job duties, not job titles or whether they are salaried or hourly employees. To be exempt, an employee must meet specific criteria classifying them as “executive”, “administrative”, or “professional”.

FLSA (Fair Labor Standards Act)

The Fair Labor Standards Act, commonly referred to as the FLSA, is the body of laws enforced by the federal Department of Labor which regulates national standards regarding overtime, equal pay, and minimum wage.

Hours Worked

All hours an employee spends on duties pertaining to his or her job must count as hours worked when calculating that employee’s hours for overtime pay. This includes work done “off the clock”, some travel time, and short breaks. If an employee works more than 40 hours in a given work week, he or she must be given overtime pay.

Independent Contractor

To be an independent contractor, a person can work for more than one company and must be able to control nearly all aspects of his or her work. If a company has excessive control of a worker, that worker is likely classified as an “employee” and is thus entitled to overtime pay.

Liquidated (“Double”) Damages

In overtime pay lawsuits, plaintiffs are eligible to recover liquidated damages which are equal to the amount of back wages. For example, if a plaintiff is awarded $100 in unpaid back wages, he or she is also eligible to recover $100 in liquidated damages. However, if an employer can prove that he or she truly believed overtime laws were being adhered to, they may not need to pay liquidated damages.

Meal & Break Periods

If an employee takes a break (for a meal or otherwise) where he or she is fully relieved of job duties, that time does not count towards hours worked when overtime pay is calculated. However, if, for example, an employee eats at his or her desk and continues to work during that time, he or she must be paid for that time.

Non-Exempt Employees

The majority of the workers in the United States are classified as non-exempt employees, which means they must be paid for overtime hours. Exemption is not determined according to job title, but according to the duties a person regularly performs as a part of his or her job.

“Off-the-Clock”

It is not legal to allow or force an employee to work “off the clock” to avoid paying them for overtime hours. If an employee performs job duties outside of normal work hours, those hours must count towards his or her hours worked for the week.

On Call

Time spent “on call” must be compensable if the employee is not able to freely engage in activities for his or her personal purposes or benefit.

Regular Rate

An employee’s regular rate of pay is the amount of money that employee earns on an hourly basis. Under the FLSA, employees must be paid 1.5 their regular rate of pay for overtime hours.

Salary

An employee’s salary is the guaranteed minimum pay he or she can depend on receiving for a given work period. Contrary to popular belief, the fact that an employee is paid a salary instead of hourly wages does not automatically exempt him or her from overtime pay.

Statute of Limitations

A statute of limitations is the amount of time a person has to file a legal claim and the amount of time to which that claim pertains. Under the FLSA, a non-exempt employee is eligible to recover back wages for two years before a claim is filed and until the day the case is closed. For most FLSA lawsuits, the statute of limitations is 3 years, which means that an employee has three years after the date of the violation to file a legal claim in pursuit of compensation.

Training Time

For the most part, time dedicated to job training must count towards an employee’s hours worked. If the training time is entirely voluntary, is outside of an employee’s regular working hours, or is not directly related to an employee’s job, it does not count as hours worked.

Work Week

Under the FLSA, employees must be paid overtime wages for every hour worked that exceeds a 40 hour work week. A work week is a period of seven consecutive days.

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