We’re trial lawyers. Our core competency – above everything else – is trying cases to juries. And we specialize in beating giants.
UNPAID OVERTIME WAGES
The Law on Unpaid Overtime in Minnesota.
The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and Minnesota Fair Labor Standards Act (MFLSA) mandate that employers pay employees time and a half for overtime worked.
The federal Fair Labor Standards Act says that employers need to pay employees time and half for all hours over 40 that they work in a week.
The Minnesota Fair Labor Standards Act says that employers need to pay Minnesota employees time and half for all hours over 48 that they work in a week.
You’re entitled to the protection of both federal and state overtime law. So if your employer isn’t paying you overtime for hours over 40, then you’ve got an overtime claim against your employer.
Sometimes these claims are easy to spot, like when your employer is just paying regular time even for hours worked over 40.
But you may also have overtime claims in cases of off the clock work. If your employer is making you work off the clock, and your off the clock time combines with your on the clock time to bring you over 40 hours in a week, then your employer owes you overtime for those hours. Off the clock time includes when your employer tells you to:
- Be at work at least 10 minutes before the start of your shift, but don’t punch in until your shift starts;
- Put on certain equipment or your uniform before punching in – these are called “donning” claims;
- Take off your equipment or uniform while off the clock – these are called “doffing claims;
- Continue working off the clock at the end of your shift if you didn’t meet your performance goals for the day; or
- Tell you to come in on a weekend or early morning and work off the clock to meet performance goals.
If your employer made you work off the clock, then you may have an overtime claim. To understand whether you have a claim, take the number of hours that you actually worked in a week (not just the hours that you were paid for). If that number is greater than 40, then you likely have an unpaid overtime claim.
It’s true that certain jobs are considered “exempt” from overtime rules – that means that employers don’t need to pay overtime to “exempt” employees who work over 40 hours. Jobs exempt from overtime pay include:
- Employees of certain seasonal amusement or recreational establishments (think: State Fair or carnivals);
- Employees of certain small newspapers;
- Farm workers employed on small farms;
- Highly compensated employees who do office work (or other non-manual work) and make $100,000 or more each year;
- Auto, truck, or farm salespersons and mechanics;
- Railroad and airline employees, taxi drivers, and certain employees of motor carriers; and
- “White collar” employees who perform management, administrative, or executive duties.
But employers often misclassify employees as salaried or exempt when they shouldn’t. For example, some employers try to classify secretaries as exempt because they perform administrative work. But for the administrative exception to apply, the employee’s primary duty must include the exercise of discretion and independent judgment with respect to matters of significance – most secretaries wouldn’t meet that test and therefore qualify for overtime pay.
If your employer misclassified you as a salaried employee or exempt employee, then you likely have a good overtime claim, because your employer owes you time and a half for all hours that you worked over 40.
To calculate your hourly rate, take your weekly salary and divide it by 40 – that’s your rate. Your employer owes you time and half of that amount for all hours that you worked over 40.
Your employer is required by state and federal law to keep accurate records of all hours that you worked.
But, of course, sometimes employers don’t comply with the law, especially if they’re making employees work off the clock.
Of course it is fantastic evidence if you keep records of the hours that you worked off the clock – the more detailed the better. If you can, keep a diary with the date, time you started work, and the time you ended. That is very powerful evidence in a minimum wage or overtime case.
However, the law recognizes that most employees can’t do that and places the burden on employers to keep accurate records of hours worked by employees. Therefore, when an employee can show that an employer’s records are not accurate – by testifying that employees had to work off the clock – then the law allows employees to estimate the amount of time they worked off the clock in their testimony and submit that to the jury.
For minimum wage and overtime claims, you can get the actual amount that you’re owed in minimum wage and overtime, plus an equal amount as liquidated damages. So you basically get twice the amount of actual damages that you’re owed. Additionally, your employer will be required to pay your attorney fees and costs of litigation, plus interest on the amount of wages it owed you.
There’s not really an “average” type of case – the value of each case depends on its own facts. Some of the factors it depends on are:
- How strong is liability? E.g, Can we prove that your employer broke the law?
- How strong are damages? How much unpaid overtime did you work? Are there other employees who were also shorted overtime?
- Collectability. Is your employer a large corporation with the capacity to pay a large judgment?
We represented “Michelle” and 24 of her peers in a case against Regency Beauty Institute. Michelle and her coworkers worked for Regency as Admissions Representatives – essentially a “call center” type position that required them to call prospective students all day, inform them about Regency, and encourage them to seek admission. Though Michelle and her coworkers regularly worked 45-55 hours per week, Regency paid them all on a salary basis to avoid paying overtime. Madia Law won collective class certification of the suit pursuant to the Fair Labor Standards Act, which allowed 24 of Michelle’s fellow coworkers to join the suit. After over a year of discovery, the parties settled the case for an average recovery of approximately $8,500 to each plaintiff.
The Fair Labor Standards Act mandates that employers pay non-exempt employees at least minimum wage for all hours worked, and time and a half for all hours worked over 40 per week. It also allows employees to proceed collectively against their employer to recover their wages. The Fair Labor Standards Act absolutely prohibits “off the clock” work – if your employer requires you to work “off the clock” or perform any work without pay, then you may have a claim. The Minnesota Fair Labor Standards Act supplements the federal protections offered by the Fair Labor Standards Act to guarantee protections to Minnesota employees regarding overtime pay, minimum wage, and unlawful deductions.
Under both state and federal law, the statute of limitations for unpaid overtime and minimum wage claims is 2 years; and 3 years if we can prove willfulness by your employer. That basically means we need to show that your employer was reckless in disregarding the law – then we can go back 3 years for your damages.
No. The Minnesota Fair Labor Standards Act and the federal Fair Labor Standards Act both contain anti-retaliation provisions. If your employer terminates you for making a report or complaint of unfair or improper pay practices, then you’ve got a retaliation case in addition to your unpaid overtime case.
First of all, we’re sorry that you’re in this position. We know how hard you work, and you deserve to be paid for all of the hard work you do for your employer.
Second, call us to talk about your case.
Contact Our Minneapolis and St. Paul Unpaid Overtime Lawyers.
You must act quickly when it comes to employment claims. If you wait, there may be strict statutes of limitation that will bar you from filing any claim at all against your employer. Call Madia today to discuss your case.
First, contact our office and tell us about your situation. You’ll talk with our staff for about 5-10 minutes. They’ll get some basic information about you and your case.
There’s some information that we’ll need when you call. We will want to know who you worked for, what kind of work you did, for how long worked there, how much you earned, if/when you were terminated, the reason given by your employer for any discipline and termination, and why do you think your employer did something unlawful or wrongful. If you have this information handy, it will allow us to proceed more quickly.
We will get back to you shortly – usually within a few hours. If your potential case is a little outside of our wheelhouse, we may refer you to attorneys, agencies, or organizations that we think might be better suited to handle your situation. Our goal is to ensure you get the best and most appropriate help possible for your particular situation. If that’s not us, we’ll try to tell you immediately and point you in the right direction.
If we think that we might be able help you, we’ll set an appointment for you to talk with one of our employment lawyers. We’ll discuss your case, and give you our honest assessment of its strengths, weaknesses, and value. If we then mutually agree that Madia will represent you, we will talk about the process of moving forward with your case.
When you talk with our employment lawyers, please be sure to have all relevant documents that you have in your possession. For example, that could include: pay-stubs, personnel files, employment handbooks/policies, letters from your employer (including your termination letter), any text messages or emails that you think are important, and any other documents that you think might be helpful.
THE MADIA WAY
We have a process that works in getting exceptional results for our clients.
We are trial lawyers who prepare every case for trial from Day 1. Investigation and legal research are the first things we do, and we spend a lot of time on them. Because we haven’t filed the case yet, we have complete control – the defendant has no say and we want to use this time wisely. We interview witnesses that can help us prove the case. We’ll ask you for all relevant documents in your possession and review those carefully as well. We also will spend some time conducting legal research about unique issues in the case. We pull the jury instructions that the judge will ultimately charge the jury with after closing arguments at trial.
Our next step is typically to send a demand letter to the defendant. In the letter, we thoroughly lay out: the facts surrounding the defendant’s misconduct; the applicable law (including statutory and case citations) that make clear that the defendant broke the law; an analysis of your damages and the defendant’s monetary exposure; a demand for a monetary amount to settle the claim; and an instruction to preserve all relevant evidence, including electronic evidence. The point of this letter is to give the defendant a chance to do the right thing and pay a fair amount before litigation, and to give the defendant an opportunity to present any defenses or evidence it wants us to consider before moving forward. Sometimes we skip the demand letter if there are strategic reasons to move straight to filing, but we typically give defendants a chance to do the right thing.
If early negotiations fail, great – we file a Complaint and serve the defendant with it. A Complaint is a legal document that states the facts of what happened and alleges how the defendant broke the law. It formally starts the lawsuit. Many lawyers draft complaints in a general and relatively vague way, just to get it done and filed – because that’s all that’s really required. We take a different view. We view the Complaint as our first chance to tell your story to the judge, and we take it seriously. So we draft detailed complaints and include legal citations to statutory and judicial authority on unique points. Sometimes we’ll include a number of exhibits, diagrams, or other demonstrative aids to help the Court understand our claims. A secondary benefit of this approach is that defense lawyers reading the Complaint can become educated on the problems of their case and the state of the law – sometimes this leads them to reach out to us shortly after service of the Complaint to re-initiate settlement negotiations. Of course, by that time, the price for settlement has gone up.
Some lawyers view written discovery as a necessary evil – something to get done and out of the way before depositions. Not us. Written discovery is a gift and an opportunity. We spend a great deal of time crafting requests for documents and interrogatories (questions for the defendant to answer in writing) that are specific, detailed, and tailored to get what we need to prove our case. Many lawyers – even great ones – think written discovery is a waste of time because defense lawyers typically answer them on behalf of their clients and can try to stonewall with legalese and objections. We view this as a wonderful opportunity. In our experience, most defense lawyers can’t help themselves when answering discovery: they over-state their defenses and make assertions that their clients will not be able to support in testimony. So we get to commit the defendant to defenses that they can’t back up, leading to contradictions, confusion, and chaos in their depositions later on. We also use Requests for Admission – which many lawyers don’t. The Federal Rules and Minnesota Rules of Civil Procedure allow us to ask defendants to “admit” certain facts. We send them RFAs that are very difficult for them to deny. Of course, they do it anyway, but that sets them up later for cost and fee-shifting, which the Rules mandate for defendants that deny RFAs that are later proven true. And usually, we can get the defendants’ own witnesses to admit facts that their defense lawyers denied in RFA. That’s a great situation that leads to more chaos and confusion on the defense side.
One last point on written discovery – we send multiple waves of it throughout discovery. We typically send 3 or 4 sets of written discovery requests to defendants throughout discovery. This compounds the problems for them, because the defense lawyers continue to overstate their defenses, but now run into contradictions from not just the defendant witnesses’ deposition testimony, but also their own previous discovery responses. This makes for a great record that we can present to the judge at dispositive motions, and use for impeachment at trial.
This is our chance to question relevant witnesses, on the record with a court reporter (we typically videotape important depositions as well). We get to confront the defense witnesses with all of the evidence we’ve developed through written discovery and document production. By this time, the defendant put its witnesses in an impossible position through its written defenses, which are often untrue and indefensible. So the witness has to either lie to support the defense, or admit it’s not true. That’s a dilemma that works for our clients either way, no matter which option the witness takes. We use depositions to expose contradictions, create a record for dispositive motions, lock witnesses into their stories so that we can impeach them later at trial, and sometimes, to show defense lawyers how hopeless their case is. We often calls from defense counsel shortly after depositions of their clients, seeking to re-start settlement negotiations.
The defendant will usually make a motion for summary judgment after discovery, asking the Court to throw out the case without having a jury trial. Because we’ve hit discovery so hard – both through written discovery and depositions – this is a tough motion for defense counsel to write in our cases. We draft our response for the Court and now get to bring everything together: the admissions, contradictions, nonsense, and obvious fact disputes that we’ve uncovered through discovery. We tell a compelling story that wraps everything together for the Court and makes clear that the defense motion has to be denied, and the defendant needs to face a jury for its conduct.
Sometimes, we’ll even make an affirmative motion for summary judgment, asking the Court to grant judgment in favor of our client without a trial. These motions are generally rare for plaintiffs to make, because the defendant can usually point to some fact dispute on its intent or some other factor that necessitates a trial. But we make affirmative summary judgment motions significantly more than is typical for plaintiffs, and that’s because the work we put in during discovery helps build a fantastic record to do so.
After the Court denies the defense motion for summary judgment, the defendant has only 2 options: 1) do the right thing and pay you a fair amount to our client to settle your claim (usually much, much more at this point than the defendant could have paid at the beginning of the case to settle); or 2) face a jury for its conduct and risk an enormous verdict. This is the dilemma that we have been creating and forcing the defendant into for the entire case. We’ll engage in settlement negotiations at this point from a position of extreme strength, mainly because most defendants are (rightly) terrified of facing a jury to defend their conduct.
This is, candidly, our favorite part of the case – why we went to law school: to hold the powerful accountable before juries. We prepare heavily for trial, including: detailed witness preparation, focus groups, and mock trials. At this point, the potential outcomes and consequences for the defendant are much more severe than if it simply did the right thing at the beginning of the case and paid a fair amount to compensate our client for its misconduct. As we advocate to the jury for our client, we’re also mindful of protecting the record so that defendants will be unsuccessful in attacking the verdict in post-trial motions or appeal.