The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) requires most employers to pay at least the federal minimum wage to most workers. Some states set the minimum wage higher than the federal minimum wage. The FLSA has other requirements, such as paying you for all the hours you work and paying time-and-a-half for overtime. If you believe that your employer is not complying with the law, you are entitled to file a wage claim.
You Have the Right to File a Wage Claim
If you believe that your employer is not paying you what the law requires, you may file a wage claim with either your state labor department or the U.S. Department of Labor. If your claim is successful, your employer will have to pay you your unpaid wages. However, you may not file a wage claim for wages that the FLSA doesn't require your employer to pay, such as vacations, holidays off, sick leave, meals, breaks, fringe benefits, raises, or severance pay.
The Law Protects You From Retaliation
The FLSA protects employees from retaliation by employers after filing a wage claim. The protection applies to formal and informal complaints, as well as to testifying about wage issues or serving on an industry committee. You are not protected, however, if your claim is not based on your good-faith belief that your employer violated the law.
Retaliation Is Not Limited to Firing
Any significant negative action could be considered retaliation for asserting your legal rights. These include changing your job title, firing or demoting you, reducing your responsibilities, or taking action that could prevent you from finding other employment. However, reassigning you to a different job is not considered retaliation if your pay is not reduced.
You Must Present Evidence of Retaliation
To prove retaliation, you must show evidence that your employer took action against you because you filed a wage claim. Direct evidence might include written or oral statements by your employer. Indirect evidence might include the timing of the adverse action, a pattern of retaliation against workers who file claims, or your boss' behavior after you filed a claim.
Your Employer May Have to Reimburse You
If you can prove retaliation for asserting your rights, you may be able to recover lost wages, be reinstated to your former job, or receive a promotion that was unjustly withheld. If you file a lawsuit against your employer, instead of a complaint with a government agency, you might also receive an award for mental anguish.
An Employment Lawyer Can Help
The law surrounding wage claims and retaliation is complicated. Plus, the facts of each case are unique. This article provides a brief, general introduction to the topic. For more detailed, specific information, please contact an employment law lawyer.