Kansas has a law regarding minimum wages and overtime, but it is little used. The reason is that it does not apply in situations in which the federal wage and hour laws apply. Because the federal Fair Labor Standards Act covers the great majority of employers, the Kansas laws in this regard do not.
Most people have a basic understanding that federal law requires that employers pay at least a minimum wage and pay overtime to employees who work more than 40 hours in a workweek, unless an exemption to overtime applies. There are many exemptions to these general rules, some quite broad (e.g. the administrative employee exemption) and some quite narrow (e.g. certain seasonal workers).
The federal law on this issue is the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). It is a very powerful statute for several reasons.
- No Intent. Unlike some employment laws, the employee is not required to prove any wrongful intent on the part of the employer.
- Records. The FLSA requires employers to keep certain employment records. Most valid claims can be proven largely just with those records. Employers who fail to keep those records are subject to the presumption of harmful facts against them.
- Class Claims. Frequently an employer who illegally pays one employee has done so with many others too. The FLSA allows for a procedure for an employee who has filed a lawsuit to notify other similarly situated employees so they can join into the case.
- Powerful Remedies. The FLSA allows the following remedies:
- Back unpaid wages
- Liquidated damages equal to the unpaid wages
- Attorney’s fees and other costs.
- Employment relationships and working situations come in many varieties. Therefore employers who violate the FLSA do so in many different ways. But there are some common ones:
- “Independent Contractor”. Sometimes employers try to get around employment laws by labeling an employee as an independent contract. To be fair, the distinction between employee and independent contract can be had to make in some situations. But if the label is misapplied and the employer has not paid minimum wage and overtime that is owed, the mistake can be costly.
- Misclassification as Exempt. There are many exemptions to the minimum wage and/or overtime requirements of the FLSA. Sometimes employers pay an employee as if they fit an exemption when in fact the employee does not fit the exemption. Usually this involves the failure to pay overtime. Common examples include:
- Erroneous Title or Job Description. Sometimes employers have a job description or title that would qualify as exempt, but the actual duties the employee works do not match and do not qualify for the exemption. Some employers give people “management” titles and pay them on a salary even though the employee has no real management authority.
- Improper Deductions from Salary. Some exemptions require that the employee be paid on a salary. This means that the employee is not subject to deductions for partial day absences or failure to work more than some set number of hours each week. Improper deductions can destroy exemptions that require payment on a salary basis.
- Failure to Pay for All Time. Employers must pay non-exempt employees for all time worked. Employers sometimes fail to do this. This has happened in many ways, including
- Recordkeeping Errors. For example, where the employee is required to start doing work before the timekeeping system allows them to clock-in.
- Driving Between Jobsites. Generally employers must pay employees for driving time between job sites.
- “Unapproved Overtime”. Employers must pay for all time worked – even if it was not properly approved. The employer may punish the employee with a write-up or even termination for working time not approved, but the employer must still pay for the time.
The United States Department of Labor (DOL) is the administrative agency charged with enforcing the FLSA and many other employment laws. The DOL has extensive materials about the FLSA and other laws it enforces on its website: www.dol.gov.