The number of American workers who have been forced to do overtime work for the same or less pay has dramatically increased since the onset of the recession in 2008. Today, lawsuits have upped by up to 32% compared to prior 2008, making court houses across the country busy all year long.
Based on the reports gathered, workers have been suing employers for violations of federal and state laws because they have been forced to do more than 40 hours for work in a week. The forcing factor was to avoid the same fate as the almost 9 million employees who have lost their jobs during the recession.
Catherine Ruckelshaus, the legal co-director of the National Employment Law Project, says that the recession has place more pressure on companies to squeeze their workers to do more and at the same time, cut on production costs. Ruckelshaus adds that if employers would have to bear the actual costs of overtime, then it would be better for them to hire more workers in order to help in the economic recovery. This, unfortunately, is not an ideal suggestion for most businesses.
There are three ways that the complainants have been forced to render overtime work and these include: a.) being forced to work off the clock, b.) jobs were misclassified as exempt from overtime requirements and c.) work bled into their personal time via smartphones and other related technologies.
The Effects of Smartphones
In defense, employers have been drawn to giving away modern office privileges like smartphones and other relevant technological tools; thereby redefining the American workplace. Telecommuting is now a new kind of work environment that has quickly clung to the basic functions of an employee. This means that even on off-hours and vacations, employers will become tethered to their employees. To resolve this, courts must find a way to reconcile old labor laws.
Employers also believe that the explosion of lawsuits is ill-timed and does not suit the current working trend. They say that employees want more flexibility of work at home or in the office e-mail while on their free time.
Meanwhile, Richard Alfred, the chairman of Seyfarth Shaw’s wage and hour practice, believes that the surge of cases is primarily because of the lucrative settlements offered if the case is won. This prompted labor lawyers to copy old lawsuits which are simpler and less costly compared to discrimination cases.
What Steps Corporations Have Taken
In order to make the working conditions more fitting for the contemporary workers, businesses reclassified their salaried employees to hourly workers. This means that instead of getting a fixed salary every pay, employees will receive what is just equivalent to the hours that they’ve put in. This makes it possible for businesses to pay for overtime because they offer a lower basic wage.
Labor: “Workers are More Protected”
The Labor Department has implemented steps to make sure that the employees are well-protected. Such steps include the addition of 300 wage-and-hour investigations that have increased their staff to up to 40% over the course of two years. The Department is also closely monitoring the conditions of workers in high-risk industries like hotels and restaurants.
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