Using Wage and Hour Class Action Lawsuits Effectively for Our Clients
Everyone knows it’s a tough economy. But that does not justify an employer in failing to pay you what the law calls for.
If you feel that your employer has not paid you properly for overtime, meal and rest breaks, or vacation pay, don’t hesitate to talk with a lawyer just because you think the amount is too small to pursue. Chances are you are not alone, and it may be possible to bring a class action on behalf of all of the people affected by your employer’s wrongdoing.
At Zatuchni & Associates, we bring class action lawsuits involving groups of people whose employer has engaged in systematic violations of wage and hour laws. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help. With offices in New Jersey and New York, we serve clients across the country in class action cases.
You Have Rights Under State and Federal Wage and Hour Laws
State and federal law guarantee workers certain rights with respect to wages paid and hours worked. Those rights include the following:
The minimum wage specifies the lowest hourly wage that an employer may pay an employee. Both New Jersey and New York impose different minimum wages than the federal government does. Employers in those states must pay employees the higher of state or federal minimum wages.
The federal minimum wage is generally $7.25 per hour. However, for employees who receive tips, the employer may pay as little as $2.13 per hour so long as the sum of wages and tips equals $7.25 per hour.
New Jersey’s minimum wage increases each year to account for inflation as measured by the Consumer Price Index. For 2018, the state minimum wage is $8.60. Starting January 1, 2019, the minimum wage will be $8.85 per hour.
For tipped employees, New Jersey law only requires that the sum of wages and tips equals the state minimum wage. However, employers must still comply with the $2.13-per-hour minimum set by federal law.
The New York minimum wage varies based on locale and the size of the employer. For example, employers with more than 10 employees in New York City are subject to a minimum wage of $13.00 per hour (which will increase to $15.00 per hour in 2019). Employers outside of New York City, Long Island, and Westchester are subject to a minimum wage of $10.40 (which increases to $11.10 at the end of 2018).
New York’s minimum wage for tipped workers similarly varies by locale and employer size, but also varies based on the industry in which the employer operates.
Overtime-pay laws require employers to pay certain employees at a higher rate than normal if the employees work more than a certain number of hours each week.
Federal law requires employers to pay an employee a wage of at least one-and-a-half times his or her ordinary rate for any hours worked over 40 in a workweek. In general, both New Jersey and New York impose similar requirements, but the rate of overtime pay varies in some cases.
These requirements do not apply to all employees; certain types of workers are exempted from the overtime-pay requirement. Which types of workers are exempt differs between state and federal law. Employees should consult an employment lawyer for help determining whether they are eligible for overtime pay.
Meals and Breaks
In general, neither New Jersey nor federal law requires employers to provide employees with meal breaks or other breaks during the workday. However, if employees are allowed to take breaks of up to 20 minutes, those breaks must be paid.
In New York, employees who work a shift of more than six hours starting before 11 AM and continuing until 2 PM must have an uninterrupted lunch period of at least 30 minutes between 11 AM and 2 PM. Breaks are also required in certain other circumstances.
How Wage and Hour Class Actions Work
Wage and hour violations often result in so little loss to each individual employee that the costs of pursuing a claim outweigh the benefits. But most of the time, if your employer is cheating you out of pay, it’s doing the same to your coworkers.
Class actions combine employees who have suffered the same type of harm into a large group of plaintiffs, who then sue together. A few people are chosen as class representatives to challenge the policy or practice of an offending employer.
This enables employees to hold wrongdoing employers accountable even in cases where pursuing an individual recovery would result in damages too small to make a lawsuit feasible. The law allows class actions as long as the legal and factual basis of the claim is the same for all class members.
Our firm can pursue recovery through a class action for wage and hour law violations of all types throughout New York and New Jersey. Contact our office to speak to an employee rights attorney about wage and hour law violations and the possibility of a class action lawsuit.