For many workers in Texas, disputes over employment contracts and paid leave seem like high-class worries. There is no time to worry about any of that unless your employer pays you what they owe you for the time that you have worked. Every second, someone uploads news articles and YouTube videos about ways to earn passive income, and this content keeps getting clicks because most of us only get paid in exchange for our time. Federal and state laws offer protections to workers who get paid on an hourly basis, including the right to payment for all the hours they worked, the right to a fair hourly wage, and the right to overtime pay when they work more than 40 hours in a week. The Houston wage and hour lawyers at HKM Employment Attorneys LLP can help you resolve disputes with your employer over pay if you get paid on an hourly basis.
Minimum Wage Laws
The first time the federal government instituted a minimum hourly wage was in 1933, as an effort to help the country recover from the Great Depression. A minimum wage has been in place since 1938, and it has increased several times to compensate for increases in the cost of living. Since 2009, the federal minimum wage has been $7.25 per hour. Some states, cities, and counties have enacted laws requiring employers to pay a minimum wage that is higher than the federal one, but Texas has not. Therefore, Texas requires employers to pay employees at least $7.25 per hour, pursuant to the federal minimum wage.
Under certain circumstances, Texas employers can pay employees less than $7.25 per hour. For example, employees who earn tips can get less than $7.25 per hour from their employer, but during shifts when the wage plus tips do not average out to at least $7.25 per hour, the employer must make up the difference, so the employee goes home with as much money as if they were a regular minimum wage employee. Students employed at work-study jobs at their universities can get paid as little as $6.16 per hour, provided they do not work more than 20 hours per week. Newly hired employees under the age of 20 can get paid as little as $4.25 per hour for their first 90 days of employment, including training, but after the training period, the employer must increase the employee’s pay to at least $7.25 per hour. Other employees whom employers can legally pay less than $7.25 per hour include incarcerated people employed in prisons, farm and ranch workers, and domestic workers.
Are You Entitled to Overtime Pay?
For work weeks when an hourly employee works more than 40 hours per week, the employer must pay the employee 1.5 times the employee’s hourly wage for every hour past the 40th that the employee works in that week. Thus, if you are a minimum wage employee and you work 41 hours in one week, your employer must pay you $7.25 for each of the first 40 hours and $10.88 for the 41st hour. In a week when you work 48 hours, your employer must pay you $7.25 for each of the first 40 hours and $10.88 for each of the additional hours.
Overtime laws do not apply to temporary, seasonal jobs. For example, if you work at a firework stand that is only open in June and the first week of July, the expectation is that you will work more than 40 hours per week, and your employer is not obligated to increase your pay for the additional hours. Likewise, salaried employees whose work is much more mentally demanding than it is physically demanding do not get overtime pay. For example, a lawyer who works for a law firm does not get overtime pay on weeks when she spends 50 hours reading documents, drafting legal memorandums, and communicating by phone with clients and witnesses; she simply gets her salary as agreed upon in her employment contract.
Independent Contractors are Exempt From Many of the Protections the Law Requires for Employees
In these difficult economic circumstances, participation in the gig economy is the only way most people can make ends meet, whether or not they also have a full-time or part-time job that categorizes them as an employee and issues a W-2. Form W-2 is for employees, whereas form 1099 is for independent contractors. It might sound like the difference is only on paper, and in fact, it is often impossible to tell the difference between employees and independent contractors based on the work they do, but W-2 employees enjoy many more legal protections than independent contractors do. For example, employers must withhold taxes from W-2 employees’ pay, whereas 109 workers are responsible for paying taxes out of their own take-home pay. Given that most hourly employees pay a lower tax rate than independent contractors do, independent contractors are often faced with a heavy tax burden. Furthermore, employers are not required to pay health insurance benefits for independent contractors, even though large and medium-sized businesses must provide them for full-time employees. Likewise, it is more difficult for independent contractors to file unemployment claims than it is for employees.
Employer misclassification, where a worker who receives a 1099 argues that the law should consider them an employee instead of an independent contractor, is one of the types of disputes with which a Houston employment lawyer can help you. Whether you are an employee or an independent contractor, you have the right to fair pay.
Contact HKM Employment Attorneys, LLP About Wage and Overtime Disputes
Fair pay is the least of what workers deserve, and the law is on your side. The Houston employment lawyers at HKM Employment Attorneys, LLP can help you in the event of a dispute with your employer over hourly wages or overtime pay. Contact the employment lawyers at HKM Employment Attorneys LLP in Houston, Texas, to set up a consultation.