The Fair Labor Standards Act () is one of the most complicated and potentially costly employment laws in the country. Not only is it nearly impossible to figure out who should receive overtime pay and who is exempt, but getting it wrong may expose you to personal liability.
Plus, if you “shoot the messenger” and punish an employee who points out your wage-and-hour mistakes, a judge just may smack you back with a huge monetary penalty. That’s what appears to have happened in a recent Texas case.
Recent case: Dale claimed his employer fired him after he complained about alleged wage-and-hour violations.
A jury agreed he had been retaliated against and awarded him $105,000 in back pay. Because the violation was willful—that is, the employer should have known better—that amount was doubled to $210,000.
Plus, the judge said that the owners were also liable, so if the company didn’t pay up, they would have to. Finally, the judge ordered the company and the owners to pay Dale’s legal fees—an additional $334,000. (Little v. Technical Specialty Products, et al., No. 4:14-CV-717, ED TX, 2014)
Final note: So, how should you handle a classification or overtime mistake? Fix it as soon as possible. Consult with your attorney to determine how much back pay you owe. Don’t ignore the problem and don’t punish an employee who complained.