Understaffing And Overworking Employees May Violate Wage and Hour Laws

Recently, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court upheld a $185 million judgment against a national retailer based on wage and hour violations. The case highlights the extreme tactics some employers use to try to maximize profits, which in this instance ultimately backfired.

The retailer attempted to both understaff and overwork its employees. Actions included not allowing workers to take rest breaks – or only shortened breaks– and requiring that they work instead. Further, some of the employees put in time “off the clock” after their scheduled shifts ended as the result of understaffing.

The court determined that the actions were so pervasive as to constitute systemic violations and thus justify the class action findings. According to the court, this – together with the manager’s annual bonus compensation program – “impeded the ability of employees, across the board, to take scheduled, promised, paid rest breaks.”

Working Through Breaks or Off-the-Clock is Illegal

The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) provides that all workers must be paid at least minimum wage. Additionally, all non-exempt employees are entitled to be paid overtime compensation. Overtime is paid at a rate of one and one-half time their standard rate of pay for all hours worked in excess of 40 hours in any one work week.

Requiring overtime work is not inherently illegal. However, requiring that workers work through breaks and put in “off the clock hours” can potentially violate provisions, entitling workers to back pay and damages.

For more information, or if you have any wage and hour questions, please contact the experienced Atlanta employment law attorneys at Buckley Bala Wilson Mew LLP for an immediate case evaluation.

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