When it comes to wage disputes, people tend to oversimplify them. However, these cases are often far more complex than people realize for a few reasons.
There are (at least) two sides to every story
In many wage disputes, parties do not agree that there is a violation. For instance, an employer and workers can have different opinions regarding:
- Whether certain hours are compensable
- Worker classification
- Whether the worker is exempt or non-exempt
- Payroll deductions
While state and federal laws provide guidance on these issues, people can still interpret them differently or misunderstand them, creating conflicts.
People don’t know what they don’t know
Many people do not have a working knowledge of wage and hour laws. They may know what minimum wage is or whether they qualify for overtime, but there are countless nuances of employment law that create exceptions and special circumstances.
If you don’t know about specific guidelines and statutes, you likely are not aware of whether there is a violation or what you can even do if one does occur. Many employers do not realize that Federal law has its own set of statutory and regulatory rules that must be followed and that each state may have distinct statutes and regulations. Employers must comply with both sets of laws which are sometimes inconsistent with each other.
Often, the workers are at a disadvantage when it comes to knowing their rights regarding wages and hours. However, employers can also make mistakes and misinterpret their legal obligations.
When an employer receives a question or complaint from a current employee about a wage and hour issue, the employer is well advised to obtain input from a subject matter expert to be certain the response is in line with both state and federal law. The employer must also be cautious not to allow a supervisor to retaliate against the employee for raising the issue.
The legal process is complex
Even if someone does bring a claim, resolving it through the legal system can be incredibly confusing.
Recently, for instance, a former Taco Bell employee had her case go all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court because of arguments over the means of resolving the dispute.
Taco Bell argued in favor of arbitrating the dispute, which is not uncommon for businesses. Many employers include arbitration clauses in their employment contracts.
However, the Supreme Court sided with the former employee. It agreed with an appeals court that Taco Bell had waited too long to enforce its right to arbitration, as the company had already participated in litigation at that point. The ruling sent the case back to the appeals court.
For these reasons, wage and hour disputes can be more challenging to resolve than you might think. However, both sides can work with legal representation to navigate claims and pursue a fair outcome.