Most people don't know the rules that govern a wage and overtime claim. We can translate the legalese for you. In general, double damages are the rule for overtime lawsuits. This means that an employer who is found liable owes an employee rightful wages plus a penalty. This is the rule in overtime cases, not the exception.
Many people might also miscalculate the value of a wage and hour claim by not including the maximum time period allowed. The law automatically allows you to recover up to two years back from the time you file your claim in court. However, if you can prove that your employer violated the law "willfully" then you are allowed to recover up to three years back from the time you file your claim in court.
What does "willfully" mean? In some courts, this means that the employer either "knew or showed reckless disregard for...whether its conduct was prohibited by the statute." This analysis is closely related to the double damage analysis. The main difference is that double damages are automatically awarded unless the employer can prove good faith, and the three year "willful violation" claim does not automatically apply unless an employee can prove the employer's violation was willful. In the real world, most cases involve a willful violation and, therefore, allow an employee to recover three years back.
So, is there any way to recover for more than three years back? Actually, yes, but it's rare. Under the applicable law, there are concepts known as "equitable tolling" and "equitable estoppel." These terms mean that If you can prove that your employer did something to actively mislead you into believing that they were complying with the law you might have a valid argument that you should be allowed to recover damages from the date the misrepresentation started.
For example, let's say your employer told you that you are not entitled to overtime because you have a felony conviction (that happened in a case I had against a chain of Burger King franchises). If you justifiably rely on that misrepresentation for six years, you would have a good argument that you should be allowed to recover for more than three years that is normally allowed under the statute. This can be difficult, however, and largely depends on which court ends up hearing your case.
If you have any questions, feel free to contact our experienced employment attorneys to answer your questions. You can call toll-free: 888-449-2068. You can also order a free copy of the 10 Biggest Mistakes that Can Hurt Your Wage & Overtime Claim to get insider information your employer doesn't want you to know.
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If you have any questions, feel free to contact our experienced employment attorneys to answer your questions. You can call anytime, toll-free: 888-449-2068. You can also order a free copy of the 10 Biggest Mistakes that Can Hurt Your Wage & Overtime Claim to get insider information your employer doesn't want you to know. Our firm is in Texas, but we maintain a national practice.
Watch the Top 10 Myths about Wage & Overtime Claims to get more info. You can also see all our videos in our Video Library, or visit our YouTube channel for more Wage and Overtime videos.