Federal Wage-Hour Law Expanded to Include Overtime ‘Gap’ Claims

Federal Wage-Hour Law Expanded to Include Overtime ‘Gap’ Claims

Recently in Connor v. Cleveland County North Carolina, the federal Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, of which Maryland is part, held that the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) allows claims for unpaid straight-time wages in weeks when an employee works overtime hours.

Typically, the FLSA only requires that an employee be paid the required minimum wage, currently $12.50 in Maryland for employers with 15 or more employees (Montgomery County has a separate minimum wage based on employer size), and overtime for all hours worked at a rate of one-and-one-half times the employee’s regular rate of pay.

An overtime gap claim exists when an employer pays an employee more than the minimum wage but less than his/her guaranteed hourly rate during a week when the employee worked overtime hours and is owed overtime pay. For example, if an employee has a fixed hourly rate of $15 per hour but is only paid $13 per hour and during that week the employee worked over 40 hours in the workweek and is entitled to overtime wages, there is a possible $2-per-hour overtime gap claim.

Prior to the Connor decision, an employee had no claim for the difference for what was supposed to be paid as the guaranteed hourly rate and what was actually paid during weeks when they worked overtime hours. The Connor case makes clear that when an employee and employer have an expressed agreement for a set hourly rate, the employee is entitled to be paid all of his/her guaranteed regular straight-time rate before overtime wages are calculated. The Court relied on the plain language of the FLSA and relevant federal overtime regulation to make its decision.

In Connor, the agreement between the employer and the employee was a collective bargaining agreement. It is an open question as to what is needed for an employee to prove that there was an agreement that bound an employer and could not be changed.

Importantly, even if an employee does not have a viable overtime gap claim, the employee may still have a claim under the Maryland Wage Payment and Collection Law, the Virginia Wage Payment Act, and the District of Columbia law. This is because these laws require that employers timely and correctly pay their employees.

Although the decision in Connor allows for “overtime gap time claims,” “pure gap time claims” are still not allowed under the FLSA. “Pure gap time claims” are for unpaid wages when an employer pays an employee more than the minimum wage but less than his/her guaranteed hourly rate during a week when the employee did not work overtime hours of more than 40 hours in a workweek.

If you think your employer has not paid you all that you are owed (overtime, commissions, bonuses, etc.), contact the lawyers at Lebau & Neuworth at 888-456-2529 or lebauneuworth.com/contact-us.

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