Wage and hour cases come in all shapes and sizes. In many instances, clients call us with issues that have nothing to do with a wage and hour claim. For instance, someone may call with a potential employment discrimination or workers compensation claim and after a few minutes realize they have a viable wage claim as well. Often times, individuals who are paid illegally are unaware and presume their employer’s practices are legal. Below are some common practices that violate state and federal wage laws but may be common in some workplaces.
(1) Compensatory time in lieu of overtime.
“Comp time” or compensatory time off in lieu of overtime pay is generally not available to employees working in the private sector. In other words, if you work over 40 hours a week, you should be paid overtime, not given time off. An exception to this is public sector employers who may provide compensatory time off (“comp time”) in lieu of overtime pay as long as employees agree to do so and the agreement is embodied in a collective bargaining agreement or some other understanding reached between the employer and employee prior to the performance of the work in question.
(2) Meal Breaks.
Although your employer is not required to provide you with a meal break, under Wisconsin law, if you are given such a break, and it is unpaid, you must be completely relieved of duty and allowed to leave the premises during that break.
(3) Travel Time.
Your employer does not have to pay you for time spent commuting to and from your home to the jobsite UNLESS you perform work prior to leaving your home. However, if you are required to travel between jobsites during the day, your employer typically must pay you for that travel time. The travel time pay does not have to be at your regular hourly rate and can be at a reduced rate.
(4) Changing Clothes v. Safety Equipment.
You may be entitled to pay for time spent putting on and taking off safety equipment that is required for you to perform your job. Courts call this “donning and doffing” safety gear. In Wisconsin, this means that your employer must compensate you, at minimum wage or higher, for items you must wear that are “indispensable to the performance” of your principal job duties.
(5) Deductions For Lost or Damaged Equipment.
Your employer may not make any deduction from your wages due for defective or faulty workmanship, lost or stolen property or damage to property, unless you authorize the employer in writing to make that deduction.
(6) Improper Incentive Pay.
If you are paid on a commission basis and receive “advances” on that commission (i.e. you can take a draw before the commission is fully paid by the customer), your employer may “charge back” commissions paid to you if the sale is cancelled but in order to do so, you must have expressly agreed to the arrangement in writing.
If you or someone you know has questions about wage and hour laws, contact Hawks Quindel at 414-271-8650 for a free consultation.