Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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UPDATED: Aug 5, 2019

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Although the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) is nearly 75 years old, it continues to be one of the most misunderstood laws for both employers and employees alike. Here are answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about FLSA wage and overtime claims and lawsuits:

Question: What should employees do if they believe that their position has been misclassified under the FLSA?

Answer: These are very complicated issues in a lot of instances. If someone believes that they’ve been misclassified or that they’re working over 40 hours a week and not being given overtime, he or she should contact an attorney to evaluate what their actual job duties are and look beyond just the title of the job that they’re given and look at their actual wages compared to what they should be paid. A firm that regularly represents employees can properly evaluate the claim to see if they are entitled to those unpaid wages under the FLSA.

Question: How does the Department of Labor (DOL) get involved in FLSA wage and hour overtime claims?

Answer: The Wage and Hour Division of the Department of Labor investigates businesses and industries to ensure that employers are in compliance with FLSA wage and overtime matters. Most investigations are initiated by complaints, which are kept confidential, so that the name of the complainant is not disclosed. The DOL may require certain businesses to treat certain employees as non-exempt. If the Secretary of Labor has already filed suit against a particular employer or if the employee has already been paid back wages under the supervision of wage and hour, an employee may not bring suit. In addition, employers are subject to civil and criminal penalties for willful violations of the FLSA, up to $1000 for each violation and up to $10,000 if willful.

Question: If a misclassified employee has already contacted the DOL, should other similarly misclassified employees wait for a DOL investigation or contact an attorney?

Answer: Misclassified employees should always follow-up with an FLSA wage and hour attorney to represent their individual interests. Misclassified employees need to protect their interests and not rely on the government to pursue individual complaints. The DOL receives hundreds of complaints and only has so many employees to investigate FLSA wage and hour claims. Even though it has an important role, I think it’s important to also contact an attorney to represent your own individual rights and interests.

Question: How long does somebody have to bring an FLSA wage and hour claim?

Answer: Under the FLSA, employees have two years from the time of the improper withholding of the wages, or three years if the withholding was intentional, to bring an FLSA wage and hour claim. As soon as an employer improperly withholds overtime wages from your pay, the clock starts ticking and you have either two years or three years from that moment to file an FLSA wage and hour claim in order to collect those wages.