With security a necessity for many American companies, an ever-increasing number of businesses are turning to private firms for safety, surveillance, and loss prevention efforts. However, the nature of security work leaves privately hired guards particularly vulnerable to federal minimum wage and overtime violations.
Private security guards are hired to protect people and property from activities such as trespassing, theft, vandalism, or bodily harm. Typical job duties include monitoring video surveillance cameras, observing entrances and exits, making rounds, investigating suspicious activity, and writing reports. Depending on the assignment, guards may work in uniform, plainclothes, or both.
The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) requires private security firms to pay their guards at or above the federal minimum wage of $7.25/hour. The guard cannot be required to pay for his or her uniform, gun, whistle, belt, or tools if the cost results in a pay rate below minimum wage.
The FLSA also requires private security firms to pay their guards overtime at one and one-half times their regular pay rate for all hours over 40 worked in one week. The hours cannot be averaged over a two week period, and hours worked by security guards in more than one post in the same week must be counted together for overtime purposes. If a guard is assigned to more than one job site, travel time between sites must also be treated as hours worked.
Finally, private security firms are required to maintain records of all hours worked by its guards on a daily basis. Employers sometimes try to avoid paying overtime by hiding their guards’ overtime hours under the guise of “expense payments.” This practice is illegal.
For example, a federal lawsuit was recently filed against Courtesy Professional Security, Inc., a Florida-based private security company operating in the Orlando metropolitan area. The plaintiff, a security guard paid at an hourly rate of $11.00, alleges that he worked as many as 54 hours in one week, but never received overtime pay at all during his one year of employment. Instead, Courtesy altered the guard’s timesheets by deleting extra hours worked to avoid paying overtime, the suit alleges.
Employees often experience similar wage and hour violations such as the ones described above. If you believe you are not being paid the wages to which you are entitled, contact an experienced FLSA attorney to discuss what options may be available to you.