Under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), employees in the United States are required to be compensated a minimum wage for every hour that the employee works. Similarly, the FLSA also governs overtime pay for workers throughout the country. While each state is permitted to enact its own minimum wage standard, a state may not set its minimum wage below the federal minimum wage standard. Following the federal standard, Tennessee has set its minimum wage at $7.25 per hour as of January 1, 2012.
While certain employees are exempted under FLSA, employees covered by the act are entitled to receive no less than minimum wage for every hour worked. Unfortunately, not every employer complies with these laws. Approximately three million workers in the United States do not receive the minimum wage that they are entitled to. If you believe that you are not receiving proper minimum wage, contact one of our Tennessee minimum wage attorneys at The Higgins Firm.
Employers May Avoid Paying Minimum Wage with a Number of Schemes
While certain types of employees may be exempt from minimum wage, some employers may attempt to avoid paying minimum wage to those employees who are actually entitled to it. Employers have used certain schemes to withhold minimum wage from employees. We have seen employers use many of the following tactics.
- Requiring Employees to Work off the Clock: Employers may require an employee to clock out before an employee has finished his or her work. A manager or supervisor may ask an employee to work off the clock to finish certain tasks that should have been completed during the day.
- Employers Automatically Deducting Meal Time: An employer may automatically deduct the time for a meal whether or not the employee has taken the break for a meal. This can violate minimum wage laws.
- Deducting Short Breaks from Hours Worked: Employers may attempt to deduct the time spent by an employee taking a short break while on the job. Breaks less than 20 minutes long cannot be deducted from an employee’s pay. The FLSA requires that an employer give rest breaks to employees. This time is a part of the work day, and the employee must be compensated during short breaks.
- Misclassifying an Employee as an Independent Contractor: An employer may attempt to classify an employee as an independent contractor to avoid paying minimum wage. Because they are not considered employees, independent contractors are exempt from FLSA minimum wage requirements. As a result, employers commonly attempt to classify workers as independent contractors. The FLSA broadly defines the term “employee.” Courts have used certain tests to determine whether a worker is an employee or an independent contractor. Two of the most common tests include the “right of control” test and the “economic reality” test. Both of these tests look at a number of factors including whether the worker provided his own tools, whether the worker scheduled his own hours, whether the worker was free to work for other employers, whether the worker could hire his own helpers, and whether the worker could supervise how the job was performed.
If your employer has used these or any other tactics to avoid paying you minimum wage, you may have a claim for unpaid wages. We encourage you to contact our experienced employment attorneys. At The Higgins Firm, we can help you obtain the earnings that you deserve.