Many bartenders, restaurant servers, and others in the hospitality industry depend on tips for a substantial portion of their compensation. In these industries, minimum wage and overtime disputes are common, whether they arise from good-faith recordkeeping errors or intentional misconduct by employers. Whether you are an employer or a tipped employee, look to an experienced Atlanta wage and hour lawyer when you have questions about the laws and regulations regarding tipped work.

If you are a tipped employee or your team includes tipped employees, it is important to understand thoroughly the FLSA and the Labor Department’s rules regarding tipped workers.

The FLSA bars employers from paying tipped workers only in tips. Minimum wage law requires employers of tipped workers to pay those employees sub-minimum wages, but that sub-minimum floor is not zero. For states that do not have standards above the FLSA requirement, federal law controls.

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The Family and Medical Leave Act grants substantial rights to workers and has the potential to impose significant penalties on employers who fail to comply with the law, as an employer in neighboring Alabama found out recently. Given how costly a violation can be (either to you as an employer or a worker,) it is highly important to know your FMLA rights and responsibilities. If you have questions or concerns, you should consult an experienced Atlanta FMLA retaliation lawyer.

An investigation that the U.S. Labor Department’s Wage and Hour Division recently wrapped up is a good example of how employers can engage in FMLA retaliation, possibly even without malicious motivation.

The case involved two workers at an auto plant west of Birmingham, Alabama. One worker sought FMLA leave to care for a family member, and the other requested time off due to their own medical condition.

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Commentators sometimes cast independent contractor status as a tool for employers to exploit employees and avoid paying those workers properly. In reality, independent contractor status can provide substantial advantages to workers… and some prefer it. With the U.S. Department of Labor’s new final rule regarding employee-versus-independent-contractor status having taken effect on March 11, independent contractors and hiring entities may wonder what they can do to ensure compliance with the new rule. A good place to start is peaking to a knowledgeable Atlanta wage and hour lawyer.

As noted above, some workers firmly prefer independent status. Independent contractor status allows workers to set their own schedule/hours, control how they do their work, and, in many situations, not have the income limitations that salaried work does.

One industry with many independent contractors is real estate. According to the National Association of Realtors, around 89% of its members work as independent contractors.

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One way for an employer to defeat an employee’s unpaid overtime claim is to establish that the worker was exempt from those provisions in the Fair Labor Standards Act. The law has several types of FLSA exemptions, including the executive exemption, the administrative exemption, the professional exemption, the computer employee exemption, the outside sales exemption, and the highly compensated employee exemption, among others. Whether you are an employee or an employer, understanding the scope of these exemptions, and when they do (or don’t) apply can be crucial. An experienced Atlanta wage-and-hour lawyer can provide much-needed advice and information about these exemptions.

A recent case from the Middle District of Georgia looked at one exemption in particular – the administrative exemption.

According to the employees’ lawsuit, their employer illegally failed to pay them overtime compensation in violation of the FLSA. The employer contended that it did not owe the women overtime pay because the administrative exemption applied.

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The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) creates several responsibilities for employers, not the least of which is proper FMLA-related recordkeeping. The law allows employers to use a rolling 12-month period to assess an employee’s entitlement to leave. That allowance, however, means that the employer must accurately monitor and record both workers’ FMLA usage (and remaining leave time) and the date when the 12-month period rolls over. Failure to do so accurately can lead to erroneous FMLA denials and, as a result, create liability exposure based on an FMLA interference lawsuit. If you’re an employer seeking to ensure complete FMLA compliance or a worker who believes you’ve been harmed by a wrongful denial of FMLA leave, an experienced Atlanta FMLA interference lawyer can provide essential advice and information about your situation.

To win an FMLA interference case in federal court in Georgia (or Florida or Alabama,) an employee must demonstrate that she “(1) ‘was denied a benefit to which she was entitled under the FMLA,’ and (2) as a result was prejudiced in some way that is remediable’” by a court judgment.

A recent FMLA case from here in North Georgia shows how a recordkeeping issue and the confusion it possibly caused created a potential instance of FMLA interference.

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Once you find yourself involved in a federal Fair Labor Standards Act lawsuit (whether as a plaintiff or a defendant,) you might imagine an elaborate litigation process with an intensely contested trial. Sometimes, that is what happens. Other times, different methods of resolution (that are frequently less involved and less expensive) may represent a more advantageous way to conclude a dispute. A skilled Atlanta wage-and-hour lawyer can be essential in helping you get a fair and just outcome – through litigation when necessary and through other means when that approach better serves your needs.

Many workers and/or employers may not fully understand how mediating an FLSA case works. A recent unpaid overtime case from the federal Southern District of Georgia court provides a useful background in walking through the process.

The Augusta-based employer allegedly violated the FLSA by improperly failing to pay one of its employees, P.J., overtime compensation and retaliating against him for complaining.

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The COVID-19 pandemic brought about many changes in the world of work, including a massive expansion of remote work. While remote work has been a boon to workers in many ways, it further blurs an already eroding line between when a worker is “on the clock” and off-the-clock time. Both employers and employees should be mindful that employees are entitled under the law to receive compensation for all the time spent working. If a non-exempt employee does off-the-clock work and doesn’t receive compensation, that may potentially represent a violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act. Whether you are a non-exempt employee or an employer, a knowledgeable Atlanta wage and hour lawyer to discuss your situation and whether it complies with what the FLSA requires.

Remote work isn’t the only issue. The massive proliferation of high-speed internet connectivity and “smart” devices means workers can be “plugged in” to work at all hours and at any location.

Recently, a Duluth-based business researched the work employees do… and when they do it. The results were noteworthy. According to a Valdosta Today report, the study found that 40% of the nation’s workers were “working longer than their contracted hours.” Georgia is above the national average with 43% of Peach State workers reporting that they did work off the clock.

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Back in January, the U.S. Department of Labor published its annual report detailing the accomplishments of its Wage and Hour Division. The “WHD by the Numbers 2023” report revealed several key things. One was the cost of employers’ failure to comply with the Fair Labor Standards Act. In 2023 alone, employers paid out more than $151 million to the WHD due to overtime and minimum wage violations. This should tell readers that FLSA non-compliance can be a substantial – and often unnecessary – drain on a business’s revenues. To ensure your business is fully compliant with all the FLSA’s demands, be sure you’ve consulted an experienced Atlanta wage and hour lawyer.

Overtime and minimum wage compensation are areas where misclassification often plays a major role. Overtime non-compliance can arise from misclassifying an employee as an independent contractor or misclassifying a non-exempt employee as an exempt employee. Misclassification-related minimum wage violations often are the result of erroneously classifying an employee as an independent contractor.

The report highlighted some other noteworthy information, including:

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Yesterday, the U.S. Department of Labor announced the publication of a new regulation governing the salary minimums applicable to certain exemptions under the Fair Labor Standards Act; namely, the executive, administrative, professional, outside sales, [or] computer employee” (a/k/a “EAP”) exemption and the highly compensated employee (HCE) exemption. According to DOL estimates, the new rule is a major departure from the previous rule, potentially moving as many as four million employees from exempt to non-exempt status. This change may significantly benefit those workers who become non-exempt. It also represents a critical decision-making juncture for employers. To ensure your business remains compliant with the FLSA in the face of the changing exempt-versus-non-exempt landscape, consult a knowledgeable Atlanta wage and hour lawyer.

The new rule is the result of a months-long rulemaking process. Last September, the DOL published a proposed version of the regulation. The proposed rule called for increasing the minimum salary level for qualifying as an exempt EAP employee to $1,059 per week (or $55,068 annually.) The department chose that figure because it represented “the 35th percentile of weekly earnings of full-time salaried workers in the lowest-wage Census Region.” (By the way, that lowest region is here in the South.)

The proposed rule also called for raising the minimum salary for qualifying under the HCE exemption to $143,988 annually. That figure was equal to the “annualized weekly earnings of the 85th percentile of full-time salaried workers nationally.”

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Unpaid overtime lawsuits pursued under the Fair Labor Standards Act are often complex matters. That’s true even if the parties avoid a trial and instead settle their dispute. Getting what you deserve from your settlement requires several crucial things, including negotiating an agreement that meets all your essential needs, executing an agreement that is clear, detailed, unambiguous, and complete, and taking all necessary actions to uphold your rights obtained in that agreement. As you work toward completing any of these steps, representation from an experienced Atlanta unpaid overtime lawyer can be vital to your success and protecting your interests.

A recent case from the federal courts is a relevant example. The lawsuit, which the workers filed in the Northern District of Georgia in 2019, alleged claims of unpaid overtime in violation of the FLSA. Although the workers originally sought more than $800,000 in damages, they and the employer eventually agreed to a settlement of $60,000. The agreement called for the employer to pay $10,000 upfront (within seven days) and then pay $1,000 each month for 50 months.

The contract also stated that if the employer didn’t pay, paid late, or otherwise defaulted on its obligations, the workers were required to contact the employer’s lawyer and give the employer seven days to cure the default. If the employer did not respond satisfactorily within seven days, then the workers were entitled to a $100,000 judgment against the employer and its owner.

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