Unpaid Overtime Lawyer

Since Fieschko and Associates was established in August of 1981, we have concentrated our practice to just four areas of the law; personal injury, workers compensation, social security disability and bankruptcy. This changed on January 20, 1994. I was flying home from Los Angeles. My mother was dying of scleroderma at the time and I visited her occasionally on the weekends. Throughout the flight I had been dictating and working on files. Towards the end of the flight, the man sitting in front of me introduced himself to me and asked if I was a lawyer (it was pretty obvious that I was.)

He told me he was an insurance adjuster who had worked on the Ashland oil spill in Pennsylvania and on the Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska. He had been paid by the hour on these projects and he had worked long hours, sometimes over one hundred hours per week, but he had not been paid overtime. He asked me if he had the legal right to be paid overtime, and I told him I didn't know, but I would look it up for him when I got back to Pittsburgh.

The long and short of it is that he was entitled to overtime, but his employer refused to pay him what was due. We filed a lawsuit for the $49,000.00 he was due in overtime. We won at trial, we won on appeal to the Third Circuit Court of Appeals, and then we won in the United States Supreme Court in April of 1997. The employer still refused to pay, until I threatened to execute on their corporate office building in Atlanta. My client received $142,000.00, which included the unpaid overtime, a like amount in liquidated damages, attorney's fees, costs, and interest. With this case, we began to practice in a fifth area of the law, class actions for overtime wages under the Fair Labor Standards Act.


The law governing overtime pay is the Fair Labor Standards Act. The law itself is fairly simple. If you work over forty hours per week, your employer must pay you at a rate one and one half times your normal rate. This is not a custom, it is the law. It applies equally to union and non-union workers. The law does not require employers to pay time and one half to workers who work holidays, or who might work over eight hours per day. Those are customs. Time and one half is the law for over forty hours per week.

There are three major exceptions to the law. If you work as a "professional" in a job requiring advanced education, such as a doctor or a lawyer, you are not entitled to overtime. If you are an "executive" who heads his or her own company and sets company policy, you are not entitled to overtime. Finally, if you have an "administrative" job in which your primary function is to supervise others, you are not entitled to overtime. Except for these three narrow exceptions, and a few exceptions which protect particular industries such as trucking, farming and computer programming, the law requires your employer to pay you overtime.

Our law firm has discovered that many employers violate this law. We have represented insurance adjusters, county police officers, truck drivers, park rangers, nurses, factory workers, warehouse workers and insurance investigators in these cases. We have recovered millions of dollars for these clients over the past twenty years.

This law is very far-reaching. If you are being paid by the hour and you are not receiving overtime wages once you work more than forty (40) hours per week, your employer is probably in violation of the law. You and all of your fellow employees are entitled to the overtime wages that you have not been paid, plus an equal amount of liquidated damages, attorney's fees and costs. If you fall into this category, you should contact our office, and we will investigate for you. Don't be afraid to contact us even if your claim is very small. The law recognizes that individual's claims are often for a small amount of money, so most of these cases are now filed as class actions.

Also, if you are paid a "salary", you are still entitled to overtime if you worked more than forty (40) hours per week unless you fall into one of the three exempt categories ("professional", "executive", or "administrative".) For example, if you are a secretary earning $20,000.00 per year, but your boss makes you work more than forty (40) hours per week, your wage rate is based upon forty (40) hours per week over a one year period at the rate of $20,000.00 per year. For any hours over the forty (40) hours that you worked each week, you are owed money, and we can collect it for you. To work out your overtime rate in this example, you multiply forty (40) hours per week times fifty-two(52)weeks for 2080 regular work hours per year. If you are earning $20,000.00 per year, then your regular rate of pay is $9.62 per hour, and therefore your overtime rate should be $14.42 per hour (even if you are ''on salary".)

One word of caution. There is normally a two year statute of limitations on these claims, so if you have a claim you need to move quickly. If the court finds that your employer has intentionally violated the law, the statute of limitations is expanded to three years. Also, if your employer failed to post the required Fair Labor Standards Act poster informing you of your right to overtime, the statute of limitations does not run until you learned of your right to overtime. However, these two exceptions can make a claim much more difficult, so you should definitely file the claim within two years whenever possible.