The Department of Labor (DOL) recently announced recovering $901,625 in back wages and liquidated damages for workers denied overtime pay. Specifically, the January 24 release states that a Florida grocery store employer wrongly exempted 75 workers from overtime pay. Markedly, wage and hour standards under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) include a federal minimum wage, mandatory overtime pay, and recordkeeping requirements. However, some employers falsify records to obscure unpaid overtime wages or make careless mistakes, resulting in employees denied overtime pay. For example, in 2023, the DOL ordered a contractor to pay $693 thousand for unpaid overtime wages and other damages.

Specifics of the Case

Chiefly, the DOL’s Wage and Hour Division (WHD) determined that the grocery store enterprise categorized some employees as “overtime exempt.” Subsequently, that incorrect designation by the employer led to affected employees being denied overtime. In particular, the employer did not pay workers the FLSA’s required time-and-one-half rate for hours over 40 in a workweek. Investigators found the affected employees did not meet specific criteria for exemption, including the following:

  • being paid at least $684 per week on salary,
  • conducting managerial duties such as directing the work of two or more full-time employees regularly, and
  • having the authority to hire and fire employees.

Additionally, the WHD learned that the store employed two 15-year-old employees to work outside of legally allowed hours. Such actions violate federal child labor regulations. Specifically, the employer required the young workers to work past 7 p.m. between Labor Day and June 1 and more than 18 hours during school weeks. As a result, the employer was levied with an additional $1,582 civil money penalty to address the child labor violations.

Overtime and Recordkeeping Under the FLSA

One of the most commonly cited federal employment laws, the FLSA, sets the nation’s federal wage and hour standards. As shown above, under the FLSA, employers must pay a correct overtime rate of not less than one and one-half times the regular pay rate for hours worked over 40 in a work week. Consequently, when employers cause workers to be denied overtime pay, it violates the FLSA and applicable state and local wage and hour laws. Also, every covered employer must keep certain records for each covered employee. Records do not have to be in a particular form. However, they must include the following information:

  • specific identifying information about the employee,
  • data on hours worked,
  • pay rate, and
  • wages earned.

Employer Takeaways

In conclusion, this recent example of the DOL recovering monies for workers denied overtime pay is not a rare occurrence. According to the WHD, due to recent investigations like this, the agency is attempting to locate more than 14,000 Florida workers owed more than $6.5 million it has recovered from employers. It should be eye-opening to employers that the figures stated are in Florida alone! Meanwhile, the WHD continues conducting overtime investigations nationwide. Given that, employers should train their managers and supervisors on the standards required under the FLSA and verify that they are following proper wage and hour-related recordkeeping procedures.