The federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) allows employers to pay their workers in a variety of ways, including an hourly wage, an annual salary, by the day, by the job, or on commission. But no matter how employees are paid, the FLSA requires the amount to be no less than the federal minimum wage, which is currently set at $7.25 per hour.
In addition to the minimum wage, the FLSA also defines overtime as any time spent working after eight hours a day or forty hours a week. For all overtime worked, employees are entitled to one and one-half times their normal rate of pay, regardless of the method of their payment. The FLSA does allow for certain types of employees to be held exempt from the overtime requirement, but it is very specific about the qualifications employees need to meet in order to be legally considered overtime exempt.
According to a recent collective action wage and hour lawsuit against Citizens Bank, the financial company allegedly deducted overtime wages from its mortgage loan officers. U.S. District Judge Arthur J. Schwab recently certified the collective action, which means all the eligible employees who worked at Citizens Bank as mortgage loan officers will have the opportunity to opt into the collective action and submit their claims for relief. Those claims will then be used to determine how much the plaintiffs receive if the lawsuit is settled or awarded to the plaintiffs.
According to the complaint, Citizens Bank allegedly did not even bother to keep track of the overtime hours the mortgage loan officers worked. The FLSA requires all employers to keep track of all the time their hourly employees spend working. Since the mortgage loan officers were paid on commission, and not an hourly basis, Citizens Bank may have believed they qualified for the overtime exemption, which would explain why the bank failed to keep track of all the hours their mortgage loan officers worked.
Citizens Bank argued against certification of the collective action, insisting that all their employment practices were in accordance with the FLSA. But Judge Schwab pointed out that, at this point in the proceedings, it is not his place to determine whether or not the bank broke the law. In order to certify a class or collective action, plaintiffs only need to prove that the practice was widespread and similarly affected other potential class members.
According to Judge Schwab, the plaintiffs who filed the wage and hour collective action against Citizens Bank effectively showed that the process of deducting overtime pay from the commissions earned by mortgage loan officers was part of the bank’s established payment policies. Whether or not Citizens Bank was acting in accordance with the law is a separate issue that will have to wait until the discovery stage.
Defendants often try to prevent certification of class actions and collective actions because they argue that, once the plaintiffs achieve certification, it puts defendants under added pressure to settle the dispute outside of court, which defendants insist requires them to shell out large amounts of money, even if they did nothing wrong. Whether the current case will settle in such a manner or be fought to the bitter end has yet to be determined.
Our Berwyn and Downers Grove wage and hour and employment law attorneys and unpaid overtime lawyers and attorneys are intimately familiar with the issues that arise during wage claim litigation, and we know the laws that govern overtime cases well. Many employers misclassify employees as being exempt from overtime laws and pay workers salaries instead of hourly wages in order to avoid paying them overtime. Some employers mistakenly classify employees as exempt and others intentionally do so in order to circumvent the law. In either case, workers do not receive the wages they should, and a lawsuit may be the only way to recover their earned wages. We represent call center workers who are forced to work overtime but are not paid time and half wages.
Nationwide Consumer Rights is based in Chicago and Oak Brook. We represent clients throughout the country who have not been paid for the overtime hours that they worked. If you believe that you are owed overtime wages, contact one of our Chicago class action attorneys by phone at 630-333-0333 or through our online form.