Attorneys are expensive. No doubt about it. I can understand clients who assume that hiring an attorney to handle a wage or overtime claim will cost so much that they might be better off handling the matter themselves. I completely understand that thinking.
The people writing the laws do not always get it right, but they certainly realized the imbalance of power between an employer and an employee when they wrote the Fair Labor Standards Act and most of the state labor laws. They also understand that many employees need professional legal help from a qualified employment attorney to help them prosecute their wage claim. Putting these pieces together, the legislatures concluded that employees would be completely unable to enforce their FLSA rights if doing so required paying a labor law attorney thousands of dollars. The fees attorneys charge can effectively shut the doors to the courtroom to masses of people who need to pursue a wage or overtime claim.
That is why the law specifically states that the employer is required to pay for the employee's attorney's fees if the employee proves a violation. This makes perfect sense. Under the FLSA, only the employee shall recover his attorney's fees in the event he prevails.
So, if your company owes you wages because it did not pay you the required overtime rate you can hire a qualified employment attorney without investing an additional dime. The attorney will work without pay unless there is a recovery. If you lose, you don't have to pay the other side's attorney's fees.
My unscientific conclusion is that most claims are settled for far less than what they are really worth.
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