Legal How-To: Getting Back Pay That's Owed to You
If your employer has violated federal or state employment laws, you may be owed back pay.
Back pay is typically the remedy for wage or hour violations, making up the difference between what an employee was actually paid and what he or she should have been paid.
How can you get your hands on back pay that may be owed to you? Here are a few general considerations:
Fair Labor Standards Act Violations
One common source of back pay awards are violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). The FLSA sets federal rules for working conditions and generally also set the minimum standard for states' own employment guidelines.
According to the Department of Labor, back pay can be recovered for violations of the FLSA by way of Wage and Hour Division enforcement, a lawsuit, an injunction brought by the Secretary of Labor, or a private lawsuit.
In one recent example, the social networking company LinkedIn agreed pay almost $6 million in back pay and damages to employees to 359 employees who were allegedly denied overtime pay in violation of FLSA. In that case, the company agreed to a settlement after an investigation by the Department of Labor discovered the violations.
Workers who have a complaint about possible wage and hour violations can submit confidential reports to the Department of Labor's Wage and Hour Division by phone or online.
State Law Claims
Back pay may also be awarded for violations of state employment laws, which like federal employment law, may typically be enforced by filing a complaint with state labor authorities or pursuing a private lawsuit.
Case in point: a cheerleader for the NFL's Oakland Raiders who filed a lawsuit earlier this year alleging violations of California's minimum wage law and a California employment law that requires workers be paid at least twice a month.
The lawsuit claimed that cheerleaders were paid less than $5 an hour for work they were contractually obligated to perform in addition to their game-day duties --such as appearances and photo shoots -- and weren't paid at all until after the season was over. If successful, the disgruntled Raiderette could recover damages including both penalties and back pay for the difference between her wage and California's minimum wage as well as any unpaid overtime she was obligated to work.
Need More Help?
If you believe that you are entitled to back pay, an employment attorney can help ensure that you get everything you're owed.
Are you facing a legal issue you'd like to handle on your own? Suggest a topic for our Legal How-To series by sending us a tweet @FindLawConsumer with the hashtag #HowTo.
- Who Has the Highest Minimum Wage? (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life)
- Second Raiderette Joins Wage and Hour Lawsuit (FindLaw's California Case Law Blog)
- Walmart Sued by Temporary Workers for Wage and Hour Violations (FindLaw's Courtside)
- Chickie's & Pete's Settlements: $8.5M for Wage, Tip Violations (FindLaw's Decided)
You Don’t Have To Solve This on Your Own – Get a Lawyer’s Help
Meeting with a lawyer can help you understand your options and how to best protect your rights. Visit our attorney directory to find a lawyer near you who can help.