As the economy has struggled in recent years, many employers have tried to shore up their bottom line by getting as much work out of employees as possible without additional pay. Workers terrified of finding themselves unemployed have often been willing to acquiesce to violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act because they would rather be underpaid than unemployed and because they fear retaliation should they take any action. If they put up with labor law violations and then are terminated, having nothing more to lose, those previously underpaid workers often feel free to file wage and hour claims. This is something a Tucson wage and hour lawyer can assist with.
Statistics That Show You Need A Wage and Hour Dispute Attorney
As a consequence, the number of federal wage and hour claims has been steadily rising nationwide since 2000. In the twelve-month period ending on March 31, 2012, 7,064 federal wage-and-hour cases were filed. That’s compared to a mere 1,854 in 2000, according to the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts.
These are some common employer practices that give rise to wage and hour claims:
- Misclassifying regular workers as managers or professionals to avoid paying overtime;
- Misclassifying employees as 1099 independent contractors to avoid payroll taxes;
- Errors in payroll deductions;
- Denial of required paid break periods;
- Failure to pay wages or commissions owed at termination;
- Paying less than the minimum wage.
Arizona’s Minimum Wage
Arizona’s minimum wage is $7.80 per hour, higher than the federal minimum. The minimum wage law covers all regular workers with these exceptions:
- A person working for a parent or a sibling;
- A person babysitting services in the employer’s home on a casual arrangement;
- An employee of the State of Arizona or the United States government;
- An employee of a small business that grosses less than $500,000 in revenue annually, if the business if not covered by the Fair Labor Standards Act.
Arizona doesn’t have its own overtime law. The federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FSLA) rules govern the payment of overtime apply to non-exempt employees. Those who work or more than 40 hours total in any workweek are required to receive payment of one-and-a-half times their usual rate of pay. In most cases, the FLSA requires bonus payments to be included as part of an employee’s regular pay rate when computing overtime.
Some classes of employees may be exempt from overtime pay, including executives, administrative personnel, professionals, computer specialists, and outside salespeople. To qualify as an exempt employee, the person must be paid on a salary basis of at least $455 per week and meet certain tests regarding their job duties. Some employers attempt to misclassify workers by giving them a job title that would tend to indicate that they belong to an exempt class, but the exemption is based on duties, not a job title.
When an employer violates FSLA the employees can file a complaint Division of Labor Standards Enforcement of the Labor Commissioner’s Office and file suit for damages with the help of a Tucson employment law attorney.
No Arizona or federal laws require that employees be given any breaks during the workday. Although the law does not require lunch breaks, federal guidelines require that a non-exempt employee must be paid for some break time if the employer allows or requires breaks. A short break of between five and twenty minutes should be paid. No payment is required for a lunch break of at least thirty minutes during which the worker is free of all job duties.
Payment of Wages at Termination
If you voluntarily leave or quit a job, the employer is required to pay you by the next regularly scheduled payday.
Under Arizona uses the term “wages” to include hourly pay, pay for piecework, and commissions, along with any severance pay, sick pay, or vacation pay that is part of your regular compensation.
When an employer fires or permanently lay off an employee, all wages are due within seven days of the termination or by the next regular payday, whichever is sooner.
An employer is not allowed to withhold wages except as required by federal or state law unless the employer has the worker’s written authorization, or when there is a reasonable good faith dispute as to the number of wages due, including counterclaims, reimbursements, or recoupment or set-off amounts asserted by the employer.
If you are not being paid wages owed to you, consult an experienced employment attorney to learn about your options.
The attorneys at Yen Pilch Robaina & Kresin PLC law firm are well experienced in resolving wage and hour disputes for their clients and are a top choice when you need legal assistance in Tucson on any employment-related matter. Call today for a consultation.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q. What is the minimum wage in Arizona?
A. Arizona’s minimum wage is $7.80, which exceeds the federal minimum of $7.35.
Q. I am 16 years old and work part-time after school. Is it okay for my employer to pay me less than the minimum wage?
A. No, the minimum wage applies to full and part-time workers who are legally of age to work.
Q. What are Arizona’s laws concerning overtime pay?
A. Arizona does not have a state overtime requirement. Nearly all Arizona employees are covered by the federal Fair Labor Standards Act, however, so they are covered by federal law which requires overtime pay of one-and-a-half times the regular pay rate when working over 40 hours.
Q. Does my employer have to give me paid breaks from work?
A. No. Unlike many states, neither Arizona nor the federal government requires an employer to give breaks. If you are given a break, however, it should not be deducted from your pay if it is a short break of fewer than 20 minutes. A lunch break of at least thirty minutes is unpaid, assuming you are free to use the time as you wish.
Q. My employer pays me as a 1099 independent contractor, even though I have to punch a time clock and work specified hours under the supervision of company management. Is this legal?
A. Probably not. It sounds as if you lack the independence in your work to be legally classified as an independent contractor. You need to talk to an experienced employment attorney.
Q. If a payday falls on a holiday, does my employer have to pay me before the holiday or can they change the payday to the day after?
A. You must be paid on or before the scheduled payday.
Q. I was fired from my job. How long does my former employer have to pay me?
A. Within three days of your last workday or the next payday, whichever comes first, unless you were employed by a school district, in which case you must be paid 10 calendar days from your termination date.
Q. When do I get paid if I quit?
A. The regularly scheduled payday for the pay period when your employment ended.
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