Best Ohio Overtime Pay Attorney Answer: I am working more hours because of the COVID-19 outbreak; does this entitle me to overtime wages? Does my employer have to pay me extra for overtime even during a pandemic? I’m an hourly worker working over 40 hours per week; how much overtime should I be receiving? Overtime Wages: Coronavirus Employment Law Frontlines
The United States is facing a health crisis unlike anything that most Americans have ever seen in their lifetime. Non-essential businesses have been shut down, entire sports’ seasons have been postponed, and in some states, citizens have been ordered to stay in their homes and avoid contact with anyone. While the majority of Americans have hit the pause on their working life, or who have been fortunate enough to enjoy the luxury of remote work from home, there are still many devoted and hardworking employees at hospitals, grocery stores, restaurants, and gas stations working tirelessly to keep essential businesses functioning. Without these heroes, we wouldn’t be able to go to the store to get food, fuel our cars, or receive essential medical attention.
It is for this work that these essential employees have the gratitude of this nation. However, gratitude alone cannot put food on the tables of these employees, nor can it pay their rent or fund their children’s education. Many of these employees are working more hours than originally scheduled. These additional hours may be considered as overtime hours. The Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”) is a federal law that requires employers to pay employees a minimum wage per hour and overtime pay at time and a half. Specifically, the FLSA at 29 U.S.C. § 207(a) requires covered employers to compensate nonexempt employees at overtime rates for time worked in excess of statutorily defined maximum hours while the FLSA’s 29 U.S.C § 216(b) creates the cause of action that allows employees to sue employers who violate the overtime compensation laws.
Overtime generally begins to accrue once an employee has surpassed 40 hours in one week of work.
However, time and half requirements only apply to non-exempt employees. (See Are Managers Entitled To Overtime Pay? I Need A Lawyer!; Does Just The Title Manger Stop Me From Getting Overtime Pay? I Need A Lawyer!). The list of employees who are specifically exempted from overtime pay requirements can be found at 29 U.S.C. § 213(a)(1), and most commonly include administrative employees, computer employees, executive employees, highly compensated employees, creative professional employees, learned professional employees, teaching professional employees, and outside salespeople. Read more about overtime and time and a half requirements in some of our other blogs written by the top Ohio wage and hour lawyers (See: Are All Professionals Exempt From Overtime Pay?; Can Hourly Employees Be Exempt From Overtime?; Are Outside Sales People Entitled To Minimum Wage? Ohio Lawyer Best Answer!)
Most employees that are considered “frontline workers” during this pandemic are not exempt from receiving overtime wages. But who is considered a “frontline worker”? The technical definition of a “frontline employee” is any employee who is required to have direct contact with customers. During this pandemic, this definition includes cashiers at grocery stores, pharmacies, gas stations, certain beer distributors, and healthcare workers including nurses and doctors. Obviously, the employees who have been required to continue working during this pandemic are mostly employees at grocery stores, gas stations, and hospitals performing some essential customer service duties. Unfortunately for these employees, especially for the employees working in hospitals, there must always be someone available to work.
In the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak/Coronavirus pandemic, many citizens of the United States do not feel safe working in their office or have been required by their employer to cease working in their office because of potential exposure to the virus. Due to these absences paired with the high volume of incoming business due to the countermeasures taken against Coronavirus, essential frontline employees have had an overload of work, requiring them to work more hours. The FLSA still applies during a pandemic, however, and these frontline employees are still entitled overtime pay for every hour over 40 hours worked in a week.
Nurses who work for hourly wages are perhaps the most affected subset of frontline employees. Nurses are an essential element of the hospital work environment, and without their hard work, hospitals could not function. Nurses are especially crucial during a pandemic on the scale of COVID-19. Nurses generally work 12-hour shifts but since the pandemic began, their workload is only going to increase. As the number of Coronavirus cases in the U.S. increases, hospitals will begin filling up, increasing the demand for nurses. As such, many hourly nurses will begin working over 40 hours a week, and according to the FLSA guidelines, they must be compensated with at least time and a half pay for every hour over 40 hours worked.
Some employers are leading the way and setting an example for how overtime pay should be handled during this crisis, even going so far as to raise the overtime wage for their employees. Amazon stated that it will begin paying its employees double their normal wage for overtime hours worked. According to The Hill:
“Amazon said it will double the overtime pay for warehouse workers as the coronavirus pandemic has increased demand for online orders, the company announced Saturday. Hourly workers in Amazon’s U.S. warehouses who work over 40 hours will receive double, instead of 1.5-times, pay between March 15 and May 9.”
Unfortunately, not all employers will follow Amazon’s lead. Some employers will see the number of overtime hours worked and they will try to find a way not to pay their employees the overtime wages they are entitled to. The FLSA provides that employers who violate wage laws are liable to the aggrieved employees for their back wages and an equal amount in liquidated damages, including reasonable attorney’s fees and costs.
So, what can you do if your employer refuses to pay you for the overtime hours you have worked? The first step is to make sure you call the right attorney to receive advice from the top Ohio wage and hour attorneys. The experienced wage and hour lawyers at The Spitz Law Firm, LLC will tell you that employers often try to claim that employees who bring a claim for overtime wages are considered exempt from receiving such wages. However, whether or not an employee is exempt is a fact intensive exercise that receives strict scrutiny by the courts, and often the employer will be unable to prove that such hourly workers are exempt. This is due to the fact that the FLSA lays out specific guidelines for which employees are exempt and which employees are not, and after it has been determined that an employee is not exempt, it becomes a simple math problem to determine the lost wages by multiplying the additional hours after 40 hours in a week times one and one half.
The United States has not seen a national emergency on the scale of the Coronavirus/COVID-19 perhaps ever. These unprecedented times create some uncharted waters, especially for the field of employment. In a time where many workers are being laid off, having their work suspended, or working from home, it has become critical to understand your rights as an employee. Hourly employees working over 40 hours a week, barring some sort of exemption, should not be deprived of their overtime wages during this national emergency. On the contrary, as companies like Amazon have shown, the overtime work of essential and frontline employees should be compensated fairly. For more information regarding overtime wages and your right as an employee to receive them, check out some of our previous blogs written by the top Ohio employment law lawyers (See: My Job Won’t Pay Me Overtime Wages! What Can I Do? I Need The Best Wage And Hour Attorneys In Ohio!; As A Salaried Employee, Am I Exempt From Overtime Pay?; and What Can I Do If My Job Won’t Pay Anyone Overtime?).
If you believe that your company is not rightfully paying you the wages owed to you to cover all of your lawfully earned overtime compensation at a rate of one and half times your normal wages as mandated by the FLSA or Ohio Minimum Fair Wage Standards laws or you are an nonexempt employee that has been misclassified as exempt or independent contractor, contact the attorneys at The Spitz Law Firm today for a free and confidential initial consultation. The wage and hour lawyers at The Spitz Law Firm will provide you with the best options for your overtime pay dispute situation. If you even think that you may be entitled to overtime pay that you are not being paid, call our Cleveland, Columbus, Cincinnati and Toledo attorneys right now. Do not wait. The longer that you wait, the less that your claim may be worth.
The materials available at the top of this overtime, wage and hour web page and at this employment law website are for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. If you are still asking, “How much should be paid during the Coronavirus pandemic?”, “Does my company have to pay me more for coming into work during the Coronavirus outbreak?”, Can I sue my employer for not paying me enough?” or “How do I get money I’m owed for overtime”, the your best option is to contact an Ohio overtime attorney to obtain advice with respect to FLSA questions or any particular employment law issue. Use and access to this employment law website or any of the links contained within the site do not create an attorney-client relationship. The legal opinions expressed at the top of this page or through this site are the opinions of the individual lawyer and may not reflect the opinions of The Spitz Law Firm, Brian Spitz, or any individual attorney.