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Can I Be Fired for Complaining About Unpaid Overtime Wages or Filing an Overtime Lawsuit?
If you have a good faith belief that your employer is not paying you overtime pay for all overtime hours worked, or has misclassified you as an exempt worker who is not entitled to overtime pay, federal law protects you if you make a complaint internally or take legal action.
However, Courts generally hold that not all comments qualify for anti-retaliation protection. So, if you believe you are not being paid all overtime wages owed and want to complain internally with your employer before filing a lawsuit, you should consult a lawyer to make sure you are making the proper complaint internally so that you are protected from retaliation. For example, if you provide human resources with a written statement that you believe you are not being paid all overtime wages owed under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act, or FLSA, and request that it be corrected, that will generally be enough to invoke the protections of the FLSA’s anti-retaliation provision. Additionally, the filing of an unpaid overtime lawsuit will also invoke the FLSA’s anti-retaliation provision to protect you.
Even if you are wrong about being entitled to the overtime pay, you are still protected from retaliation so long as you have a good faith belief that you were entitled to unpaid overtime wages. This applies to both internal complaints and lawsuits.
The Federal Labor Standards Act and Your Rights
The Federal Labor Standards Act became law in the 1930s. The people responsible for drafting the FLSA, which was designed to protect the rights of workers, knew they had to include strong protection for those who choose to stand up for themselves. Otherwise, no worker would ever risk losing his or her job to stand up for the full wages they earned and are owed. As a result, employers face stiff penalties if they retaliate in any way against a worker who complains about unpaid overtime wages or files or participates in an overtime wage lawsuit.
Damages for FLSA retaliation include the following:
- Lost past wages
- Front future wages
- Additional compensation known as liquidated damages in an amount equal to lost wages
- Attorney fees and costs
- Compensatory damages for emotional distress
- Depending on the facts, punitive damages.
If your employer fires you because of your overtime wage complaint or lawsuit, you may be able to recover significant compensation.
Talk to an Experienced Attorney
Of course, all cases are different. There are no guarantees you’ll win your case. That’s why you need to speak with an attorney before complaining internally about overtime wages or taking legal action against your employer. Again, if you do not make the internal complaint properly, you may lose the protections of the FLSA’s anti-retaliation provision. So contact an experienced employment lawyer before taking any action. He or she will listen to the details of your case and be able to give you a good idea on how to proceed.