Wage theft is a problem of national importance. Across the country, millions of employees, most of them already working for low wages, are being stolen from by their employers. In Alabama, where nearly 37% of the State’s workforce earn $12 per hour or less, wage theft is particularly acute.
Unpaid Overtime Attorneys For Alabama Workers
As a worker in Alabama, you have rights. You have the right to a minimum wage and to overtime pay for your extra hours. But all too often, these rights aren’t being respected. Every day, employers in Alabama pay sub-minimum wages, refuse to compensate their employees for short breaks and count overtime hours as straight pay.
These are all violations of federal labor law and workers don’t have to put up with it. Just as you have a right to overtime and minimum wage, you have a right to be paid all of the money you’re owed. And when your employer refuses to pay you correctly, you have the right to sue. In fact, you could be entitled to double back wages, because federal law imposes strict penalties on employers who engage in illegal pay practices.
All you have to do is reach out. Our experienced overtime attorneys are here to help Alabama workers who think they’re being stolen from by an employer. To learn more about your rights and options, call us today.
Alabama’s Minimum Wage: $7.25 / Hr
Alabama does not have its own minimum wage, according to Alabama’s Department of Labor, so workers in the State can be paid a minimum wage of $7.25 per hour, which is the federal rate currently recognized through the Fair Labor Standards Act. And in 2016, Alabama’s State legislature defeated a bill that would have allowed cities and other municipalities to set individual minimum wages, overturning a Birmingham ordinance that would have seen the wages of an estimated 40,000 low-wage workers rise to $10.10. With no hope for change in sight, it seems that Alabama’s state-wide minimum wage will remain equivalent to the federal one of $7.25.
That all changes for employees who make tips in Alabama. Workers who usually receive tips are still covered by the Fair Labor Standards Act, a federal law, but the requirements on employers are completely different. When a server, bartender or other worker in Alabama receives at least $30 per month in tips, they become classified as a tipped employee. And that means employers can legally pay a lower-than-minimum cash wage, so long as their total compensation doesn’t fall below the minimum wage.
Calculating A Tipped Hourly Wage
The first thing to note is that, no matter how many tips you get, your cash wage can never fall below $2.13. That’s the absolute minimum, and if you’re getting paid less than $2.13 per hour, your employer is breaking the law. When the practice is legal, though, your employer is taking a “tip credit.” In essence, your boss is allowed to reduce the applicable minimum wage (in Alabama, $7.25 per hour) by the hourly rate of tips that you make. Let’s check out an example to make this concept clearer:
Assume that you worked 40 hours in a week and made a total of $80 in tips. That’s like you got $2 in tips per hour. It’s also the “tip credit” your employer is allowed to take. So what your employer do, if they’re playing by the law, is lower the minimum wage ($7.25) by $2 for every hour. Your new cash wage becomes $5.25.
The key, however, is that your hourly cash wage plus your hourly tip wage is equal to the minimum wage. That’s the most important part. When added together, your tipped wage and your cash wage should always reach at least the minimum wage. If they don’t, you’re being paid incorrectly and might be entitled to secure back wages.
What if you do two sorts of work at your job, one where you get tips and another where you don’t? That’s an important question for servers who spend a lot of their time waiting on customers, but also stay after service to close, wash dishes or do other tasks that don’t usually end with a tip. Again, we have to turn to federal law, because Alabama doesn’t have any laws of its own. And the Fair Labor Standards Act says that, if an employee works over 20% of the time doing non-tipped labor, their employer can’t take a tip credit, even for their tipped hours.
Alabama Overtime Laws
It shouldn’t be very surprising that Alabama doesn’t have its own overtime laws, either, so the federal standards kick in again. That means we’ll have to turn to the Fair Labor Standards Act, which says that all covered workers are entitled to time-and-a-half for all hours past 40 in a workweek. Work 41 hours in a week? Great! You’re entitled to higher wages for that 1 hour of overtime.
How To Calculate Overtime Wages In Alabama
So what does time-and-a-half look like? Overtime wages are calculated based on your “regular rate-of-pay,” a phrase found in federal law. In most cases, that looks just like your normal wage. If you get paid $8 an hour normally, you’d be entitled to an overtime wage of $12 an hour, since $8 times 1.5 is equal to $12. But the “regular rate-of-pay” is actually a broader concept than that. It can include certain bonuses and commissions, too. Here’s an example of how you would properly calculate overtime wages, using both an hourly wage and a bonus:
Let’s say you get paid a regular rate of $8 an hour, but one week you get a bonus of $100. And let’s also assume that you worked 48 hours that week, meaning you’re eligible to receive overtime. Most of the time, that bonus will have to be included in your overtime wages. Same goes for certain forms of commission.
But obviously, your bonus isn’t really predicated on the number of hours you worked, so we’ll have to convert it into an hourly wage. That’s pretty easy. Just divide the bonus ($100) by the number of hours you worked for the week (48) to get approximately $2.10. Now we need to combine that hourly bonus rate with your normal hourly wage, which is $8 per hour. Since $8 plus $2.10 is $10.10, that’s your regular rate-of-pay for the overtime week.
To find your overtime wage for the week, all we have to do is multiply your regular rate-of-pay ($10.10) by 1.5, to get $15.15. And next we can finish the calculation off by calculating your total overtime wages for the week, which would be your hourly overtime wage ($15.15) by the number of overtime hours you worked (8). That’s $121.20 in overtime wages, which can be added to your regular pay of $320 to get a grand total of $441.20.
Overtime wages are calculated on a weekly basis, but to account for people who don’t start their workweek on a Monday, the Fair Labor Standards Act defines a workweek as “a fixed and regularly recurring period of 168 hours – seven consecutive 24-hour periods.”
Meals & Other Breaks
Alabama only address the question of meal breaks and rest breaks when it comes to workers between the ages of 14 and 15. For these young workers, the State’s child labor laws say that 14 and 15-year-olds are entitled to a rest period of at least 30 minutes when they work at least 5 consecutive hours.
Adults don’t have their own Alabama-specific break law to rely on and, surprisingly, there’s no federal law that requires meal or rest breaks, either. Your employer, under federal law, doesn’t have to give you a break. Ever. But if they do, and most do, federal law tells us whether or not they have to pay you for your break time.
The basic rule is that short breaks are compensated, while longer breaks don’t have to be. A short break is one that lasts for around 20 minutes or fewer. That’s work time and you should be paid for it. Longer breaks are usually like 30 minutes or longer and, in most cases, your employer doesn’t need to pay you for it. But that’s only true if you’re not working at all during the break. You have to be relieved completely from all work-related duties to have a genuine uncompensated break. If you’re still expected to do something, even answer the phone in the off-chance that someone calls, you’re still working (and racking up work hours).
Contact An Alabama Overtime Lawyer Today
Are you being paid in violation of federal or Alabama State law? Is your employer under-paying you for overtime, or paying you less than minimum wage? Our experienced wage and hour attorneys can help.
Eligible workers can secure significant financial compensation by filing an unpaid overtime lawsuit. You may be entitled to double the back wages owed, since federal rules often imposes additional “liquidated” damages on employers who break the law. To get started, contact our lawyers today for a free legal consultation.
While the attorneys at WageAdvocates.com aren’t licensed to practice law in Alabama, we work regularly with a national alliance of trusted labor law professionals. And we do it all on a contingency-fee basis. That means you owe nothing until your case secures compensation. Learning more about options also comes at no charge. Just call our lawyers to find out more about your rights now.