Best Ohio Overtime Pay Attorney Answer: My boss says he doesn’t pay overtime – what can I do about it? What are liquidated damages? Can I get my employer to pay my attorneys fees if I have to sue to get my overtime pay?
It is truly astounding how often our overtime lawyers encounter employers who simply take it upon themselves to decide that they just are not going to pay overtime, as a matter of policy. These employers ignore the law at their peril. (See How Do The New Overtime Rules Help Me? – Call The Right Attorney; What If I Can’t Afford To Sue For Overtime Pay? – Call The Right Attorney; Can My Boss Not Pay Me Overtime By Calling Me A Independent Contractor?; and How Do I Prove That I Was Not Paid Overtime? – Call The Right Attorney).
If your boss refuses to pay you overtime, the first thing you should do is call the right attorney. By speaking with one of our wage and hour attorneys, you can get the overtime you are owed and keep your job. And, our overtime attorneys will ensure that if your employer retaliates against you for trying to get paid what you are owed, they are held accountable for doing so.
Both Ohio law (R.C. § 4111.03) and the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA“), in addition to requiring employers to pay time and a half to employees that work over 40 hours per week, also allow an employee who is denied overtime to collect what they are owed, plus reasonable attorneys fees. However, the law also allows for the mandatory collection of “liquidated damages” (double the amount you are owed) when the employer fails to demonstrate that their failure to pay overtime was a mere oversight, and the product of “good faith.” The burden is on the employer to demonstrate good faith – the employee does not need to prove that the failure was the product of bad faith.
In Reyes v. Aqua Life Corp., the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals recently explained this burden of proof after the trial court arbitrarily decided that the employee was not entitled to liquidated damages to his jury award of $14,770. Explaining the basis for its denial of the employee’s request for liquidated damages, the trial court stated that the issue of liquidated damages was reserved for the court, and it did not believe the record supported an award of liquidated damages. The only evidence the employer had put up as to its good faith was that its vice president had researched exemptions to the FLSA, and believed that the employee, was exempt.
As the Eleventh Circuit pointed out, however, the employer’s vice president also admitted that he had never even heard of the FLSA until the employee sued for overtime. Finding that the employer had failed to meet its burden, the Eleventh Circuit reversed the trial court’s denial of liquidated damages:
Under the FLSA, liquidated damages are mandatory absent a showing of good faith by the employer. See 29 U.S.C. § 216(b) (2012); Joiner v. City of Macon, 814 F.2d 1537, 1538-39 (11th Cir. 1987). Although liquidated damages are typically assessed at an equal amount of the wages lost due to the FLSA violation, they can be reduced to zero at the discretion of the court. See 29 U.S.C. §§ 216(b), 260. If an
employer shows to the satisfaction of the court that the act or omission giving rise to such action was in good faith and that he had reasonable grounds for believing that his act or omission was not a violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act . . . the court may, in its sound discretion, award no liquidated damages. . . .
An employer who seeks to avoid liquidated damages bears the burden of proving to the court that its violation was “both in good faith and predicated upon such reasonable grounds that it would be unfair to impose upon him more than a compensatory verdict.” Reeves v. Int’l Tel. & Tel. Corp., 616 F.2d 1342, 1352 (5th Cir. 1980) (quoting Barcellona v. Tiffany English Pub, Inc., 597 F.2d 464, 468 (5th Cir. 1979)). “Before a district court may exercise its discretion to award less than the full amount of liquidated damages, it must explicitly find that the employer acted in good faith.” Joiner, 814 F.2d at 1539.
The district court erred in denying liquidated damages on this record. Aqua Life had the burden of proving good faith and reasonable belief and failed to carry that burden.
As a result, the plaintiff received another $14,770, for a total judgment in the amount of $29,540.
But, that is not all. The Eleventh District Court of Appeals further explained that a prevailing employee is also entitled to have his or her employer pay the costs of the litigation: “Full taxable costs are expressly awarded to a prevailing plaintiff in an FLSA action. 29 U.S.C. § 216(b).”
I know that I am about to sound like one of those “as sold on TV” commercials but … wait, there is more. On top of liquidated damages and costs, the FLSA also provides for the recovery of attorney’s fees too:
The FLSA provides that a court “shall, in addition to any judgment awarded to the plaintiff or plaintiffs, allow a reasonable attorney’s fee to be paid by the defendant.” 29 U.S.C. § 216(b). The Supreme Court has explained that the “starting point for determining . . . a reasonable fee is the number of hours reasonably expended on the litigation multiplied by a reasonable hourly rate.” Hensley v. Eckerhart, 461 U.S. 424, 433 (1983). The “applicant bears the burden of establishing entitlement and documenting” reasonable hours expended and reasonable hourly rates. See ACLU v. Barnes, 168 F.3d 423, 427 (11th Cir. 1999).
Interestingly, even after the liquidated damages award, this case presents yet another example of where an attorney’s fees and cost award can cost the employer even more than the actual judgment. Indeed, despite an 85 percent reduction in the requested attorneys fee request due to the trial courts belief that plaintiff’s counsel had improperly inflated his billing, the court still gave an award of $59,070 in attorney’s fees to the employee.
Let’s step back for a second and assume that the employer paid at least as much as the attorney’s fees award to their own attorney as well as typical costs. This means that the employer chose to pay over $60,000 for a case where they could have simply paid $14,770 in unpaid overtime at the beginning of the case. Heck, even if they had to pay the $29,540 with the liquidated damages, they still would have gotten out cheaper than fighting this case to a jury – even if they had won. And, when they lost, the $14,770 in unpaid overtime ultimately cost the employer over $150,000. This is what happens to stubborn employers that try and get away without paying overtime and then thinking that they can stubbornly win at trial.
If you believe that your employer is not paying you all of your wages for all of your lawfully earned overtime compensation at a rate of one and half times your normal wages as requires under the Federal Fair Labor Standards Act or Ohio Minimum Fair Wage Standards laws or you are an nonexempt employee that has been misclassified as exempt or independent contractor, contact the attorneys at The Spitz Law Firm today for a free and confidential initial consultation. The wage and hour lawyers at The Spitz Law Firm will provide you with the best options for your overtime pay dispute situation. If you even think that you may be entitled to overtime pay that you are not being paid, call 866-797-6040.
The materials available at the top of this overtime, wage and hour web page and at this employment law website are for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. If you are still asking, “Am I entitled to overtime?”, “Does my job have to pay me for …”, “My paycheck is not right…” or “What do I do if…”, the your best option is to contact an Ohio overtime attorney to obtain advice with respect to FLSA questions or any particular employment law issue. Use and access to this employment law website or any of the links contained within the site do not create an attorney-client relationship. The legal opinions expressed at the top of this page or through this site are the opinions of the individual lawyer and may not reflect the opinions of The Spitz Law Firm, Brian Spitz, or any individual attorney.