On paper, it seems like getting paid on an hourly basis is straightforward and leaves little room for differences of opinion, especially if you work onsite. If you clock in when you arrive at your workplace and clock out when you leave, your employer should have a record of how many hours you worked during that pay period and should simply multiply it by your hourly rate of pay. Likewise, it should be obvious when you have worked more than 40 hours in a seven-day period, and for those hours beyond the 40th, your employer should multiply your hourly wage by 1.5. Disputes over hourly pay are more common than you might expect; employers sometimes try to shortchange employees paid on an hourly basis out of money they rightfully earned. Payment disputes are not just for salaried employees with multi-page employment contracts; anyone whose employer does not pay them what they promised to pay for work performed has the right to take their employer to court to get the money they are owed. The Alabama labor dispute lawyers at HKM Employment Attorneys LLP can help you if your employer has not paid you for all the time you have worked.
How Much are Alabama Employers Required to Pay?
As of June 2021, the federal minimum wage is $7.25 per hour; it has remained the same since 2009, despite an increase in the prices of many essential items and of the cost of living in general. Alabama follows the federal minimum wage law and does not have its own state minimum wage; therefore, the lowest starting wage you can receive in Alabama is $7.25 per hour. (Depending on what part of Alabama you live in, it might be worth commuting across state lines to Florida, where the minimum wage is $8.65 per hour.)
Your employer must pay you your base rate of hourly pay, which your employer informed you of when they hired you and, if applicable, when they gave you a raise, for every hour that you work up to and including 40 hours in one week, defined as seven consecutive days. If you work more than 40 hours in a week, you must receive 1.5 times your base rate of pay for each overtime hour worked that week, starting with the 41st hour. You return to your base rate of pay when a new week begins.
For example, if Bob earns $10.00 per hour as a restaurant cook, he earns $350.00 on weeks when he works 35 hours and $400.00 in weeks where he works 40 hours. One week, he works 45 hours, and he earns $475.00, $400.00 for the first 40 hours he worked and $75.00 (five times 15) for the additional five hours he worked that week. The following week, he works his usual 40 hours and earns his usual paycheck of $400.00.
Not All Workers are Entitled to Receive Overtime Pay
Overtime pay is meant to provide an incentive for workers to put in the extra hours when their employers need them the most, and in fact, it usually works this way in practice. (In Alabama, your employer can require you to work more than 40 hours per week, as long as they pay you at the overtime rate for those extra hours; overtime is not merely a lucrative side gig.) Why is it then, that almost everyone you know works such long hours, and yet they barely have enough money to get by? Do not blame the pandemic, because this situation has been going on for years.
In practice, it is not as simple as everyone getting one and a half times their pay for every hour they work beyond 40 hours in a week. The law does not require employers to pay workers in some occupations according to the overtime guidelines. Taxicab drivers and airline workers are not entitled to receive overtime pay, and neither are domestic workers whose employers provide housing for them. Likewise, employees paid a monthly salary instead of an overtime wage do not usually get overtime pay. The idea is that, in the professions ineligible for overtime pay, the nature of the work determines that the workers are sometimes busy and sometimes not. A taxi driver might work 50 hours per week most weeks during the tourist season but only 30 hours per week during the off-season; in other words, he naturally earns more money during the weeks he works more hours. As for salaried employees whose work is mostly intellectual, it is difficult to quantify how much time they spend on work. If a marketing creative spends 50 hours in a week looking at web pages to help him get ideas for the web page he has been assigned to design, but he does not find anything good, but he gets a brilliant idea for the web page while taking a shower before work, how much time do you pay him for?
The Plight of the Gig Worker
The biggest reason that people do not receive overtime pay is not simply that the law does not consider overtime pay appropriate or practical for certain professions. Rather, it is that, while employees (people who receive a form W2 every year at tax time) are entitled to overtime pay, independent contractors (people who receive a form 1099) are not. It is cheaper for employers to hire workers as independent contractors, not only because it means not paying overtime, but it also means not paying taxes or health benefits for the worker. The bottom line is that employers will pay you as little as they can get away with paying you. If you are doing the work of a full-time employee, but your employer and the IRS are treating you as an independent contractor, an Alabama employment lawyer can help.
Contact an Alabama Employment Lawyer About Wage Disputes
An Alabama employment lawyer can help you if your employer has not paid you for the work you have done. Contact the Alabama employment lawyers at HKM Employment Attorneys LLP to set up a consultation.