Retail workers have tough, demanding jobs and they put in long hours – often more than 40 a week. When they work overtime, retail employees sacrifice being with family or enjoying leisure activities. Because of this, labor laws such as the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), as well as many state and local regulations, stipulate that hourly workers must be paid time-and-a-half for overtime.
The Specter of Unpaid Overtime that Haunts the Retail Industry
Unfortunately, many retailers attempt to cut costs by cheating employees out of overtime. This can take several forms:
- Off-the-clock work: Retail workers are often asked to complete job-related tasks before and after their shifts for which they are not compensated. For example, TJ Maxx recently paid employees $8.5 million to settle a class action lawsuit. The workers alleged they had to spend time after they clocked out waiting for managers to close up the store – for which they should have been paid overtime but were not.
- Misclassification. This is a serious problem for retail workers. Employers often give hourly employees – who should be paid time-and-a-half for any hours worked above 40 in a week – titles that sound managerial. These can be “assistant store manager” or “assistant store supervisor.” The company then classifies the employee as exempt from overtime. The problem is that, in many cases, those employees have the same duties as hourly workers – and should be getting paid overtime.
- Forced to work through meal breaks. While meal breaks are not required in most states, hourly employees who receive a 30-minute unpaid meal break should not have to perform any work-related tasks during the break. However, retailers often force workers to not only work during unpaid meal breaks, but then do not pay them for that time. This can add up, adding up to 30 minutes to a day – and put a retail worker well above 40 hours in a week, and therefore owed overtime.
Retail Workers Have a Right to Receive Compensation for Unpaid Overtime
If a retailer violates the FLSA or state and local employment laws, workers have the right to sue for unpaid overtime and other compensation. This can often be done as a class action lawsuit, where retail workers take collective action against their employer.
If you and your colleagues work for a retailer who ducks paying overtime, you may want to consult an experienced employment litigation attorney and discuss a possible case.