The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) was passed in the aftermath of the Great Depression and was supposed to guarantee “a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work.” The FLSA was a response to all the deplorable working conditions American workers were being forced to endure just to be able to have a job. In the 1920s and 1930s Corporate America required employees to work extremely long hours for very little pay. If an individual complained about his or her pay, or the long hours they were required to work, they were simply fired and replaced by another individual. During the Depression era, with unemployment at all-time highs, many companies used the vast labor pool to their advantage. Many workers were forced to work until they literally could not continue then they were terminated and replaced by younger, and more physically capable individuals. This “heartless” approach to running a company and dealing with its employees was morally wrong.
Although American workers hopefully will never have to endure what the early 20th century workers experienced, we have seen many in Corporate America try and use the current economic crises to their advantage. The first way we have seen corporations abuse their workers is by requiring them to take on more responsibility or job duties than they otherwise are required to perform. Often times, employees are even being forced to work “off-the-clock.” The second manner we have seen abuse is by managers and supervisors openly intimidating employees by claiming that there are plenty of unemployed individuals out there who want their job. This creates a hostile work environment and makes employees reluctant to stand up in the face of abuse for fear of retaliation or losing their jobs.
When corporations require salaried employees to work longer hours or increase a person’s job duties or responsibilities, they may be violating the law. Under the FLSA, a “Bona Fide Executive” or managerial employee typically receives a salary for all hours worked and is not entitled to overtime pay. To qualify for this type of pay arrangement, however, the employee’s “primary duty” must be “management” of the store or department to which they are assigned. Under the Department of Labor regulations, “the amount of time” an employee spends on a particular task can be a good indicator of whether “management” is their primary duty. Therefore, if a company continues to add more job duties and responsibilities that really isn’t “management” work, they could be violating the law by changing the very nature of the job. In many instances, adding the additional work will create a situation where the employee should actually be receiving overtime pay, even though they still receive a salary.
Our firm is currently reviewing several cases where individuals have complained that they have had additional job responsibilities placed on them in the company’s effort to increase production or to help the company save on labor costs. Many times, companies will eliminate certain jobs and expect the remaining employees to pick up the extra work. There is certainly nothing wrong with employees pitching in during tough economic times. But, a company cannot be allowed to violate the law and abuse its employees so its high level executives can continue to make their same salaries, receive big bonuses and not share in the increased work. If you want more information relating to this subject, contact Roman Shaul in our firm at Roman.Shaul@beasleyallen.com or 800-898-2034.
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