When Work Doesn’t Pay

November 18, 2011  |  Employment Law, Overtime Violations

So, you got the job.

Now you are ready for all the perks and nuisances that come with full time employment. You can finally get that cracked tooth fixed, you can add at least a dozen friends to your Facebook profile and well, you’ll figure out a way to deal with the guy who wanted your job to go to his old college roommate. Not to mention that your paycheck will be automatically deposited and you won’t have to worry about all the financial stuff you were dealing with when you were a part-timer.

You can focus on the job to be done, knowing that your employer will handle the rest. And it will never cross your mind that they won’t. Because you are a hard worker –- just the sort of all-American employee that corporations rely upon to build solid profits, even if that means taking advantage of you here and there to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars a year.

But how can that be? We all know that there is a minimum wage and somebody, somewhere in the government keeps tabs on who pays what to whom.

Well, true. There are plenty of acronyms responsible for fair pay. The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) sets minimum wage, overtime pay, record-keeping, and child labor standards for just about everybody. And, the Wage and Hour Division (WHD) of the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) puts teeth in the FLSA by enforcing it in private employment, state and local government employment, and with federal employees of the Library of Congress, U.S. Postal Service, Postal Rate Commission, and the Tennessee Valley Authority.

But even with all of this oversight there are people who are doing an honest day’s work without an honest day’s pay. And we’re not talking small numbers. In fact, the Employment Standards Administration’s Wage and Hour Division (WHD) recovered in excess of $185 million in back wages for over 228,000 employees in fiscal year 2008 alone.

Some back pay goes to people who were not compensated properly for very obvious overtime situations. But a surprising amount goes to people in the medical field, where hospitals nationwide have paid millions to settle claims by the government, and hospital employees who have been forced to choose between caring for patients (and therefore working without overtime pay) or “clocking out” in chronically understaffed situations.

Another twist is payment for oil field workers overseas.

Americans who worked at least five years in for a U.S. oilfield company or defense contractor in the Middle East are due “end of tour” compensation when they return to the United States. However, many oilfield companies and defense contractors rely on their workers’ ignorance about the law and deliberately skip these payments – even though they are required by law.

Given the all-time high profits of the oil companies, someone is getting paid – and we’d like it to be the employees.

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