In certain areas of business, sports, or life in general, it is often said that “timing is everything.” If you are someone whose employer has failed to pay you appropriate overtime compensation or pay you in accordance with minimum wage laws, timing isn’t everything but it is undeniably a crucially important thing. Waiting too long can mean a case outcome where you recover nothing, regardless of how strong your proof is. If you’ve illegally underpaid, don’t wait to act. Go out as soon as possible to talk to a knowledgeable Atlanta unpaid overtime or minimum wage lawyer about your situation.
A recent overtime and minimum wage case from a federal court in neighboring Florida is a reminder of how important a thorough understanding of how the statutes of limitations, and the deadlines they impose, are.
In that case, J.R. worked at a motel in Lakeland, Florida, starting in 2010. According to her complaint, the woman averaged roughly 98 per week on the job. In return, the motel owner allegedly paid her anywhere from $0 to $30 per week.
The woman sued on July 30, 2021.
Most all civil lawsuits contain a limitations period, or a deadline for filing suit. When it comes to a minimum wage violation or unpaid overtime claim under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), that deadline generally is two years. What that means is that, if you sued on Feb. 1, 2022, you can seek compensation for violations that happened going back two years from that date.
When the Limitations Period is Three Years, Not Two
In some FLSA cases, the limitations period is three years. Those are cases where the employer engaged in a “willful” violation of the statute. To get that extra year, you have to affirmatively prove your employer’s willfulness in breaking the law. That means you have to show that your employer knew it was in violation of the FLSA or undertook actions that demonstrated its reckless disregard as to whether it was in violation of the statute. Reckless disregard, within this aspect of the law, means doing something (or failing to do something) that was so far outside the bounds of reasonableness and good-faith the employer either knew it was illegal or reasonably should have known it was against the law.
Additionally, as J.R. and her legal team recognized, the fact that your employer first started violating the FLSA more than two (or three) years before you filed your complaint does not defeat your case. Each time your employer pays you in a way that is in violation of the FLSA, that’s a violation for which you have two (or three) years to sue.
So, in that hypothetical Feb. 1, 2022, you can seek remedies for anything that happened from Feb. 2020-Feb. 2022, even if you first started working for your employer (and your employer first started illegally underpaying you) in 2017. You can go back to Feb. 2019 if you can prove the violation was willful.
In her complaint, J.R. alleged that the employer’s violation was willful and also expressly stated that the start date for her FLSA claims was “July 30, 2018,” or exactly three years before she filed the complaint, so her legal team clearly understood exactly what she could and could not get from an FLSA lawsuit.
If your employer is not paying you proper overtime or is paying sub-minimum wages, you have the right to take action… but only for a limited time. Don’t let timing be your enemy. Instead, get in touch with the experienced Atlanta minimum wage attorneys at the law firm of Parks, Chesin & Walbert. Our team is highly skilled in handling both minimum wage and unpaid overtime cases, and we’re ready to get to work for you. Contact us through this website or at 404-873-8048 to schedule a consultation.