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Labor Department receives record number of wage and hour claims

Earlier this week, we wrote about a high-profile employment lawsuit brought against singer Celine Dion. A former employee who worked as a handyman at Dion's Florida home filed a wage and hour claim against the pop star and her husband. Among other allegations, the man claims he was misclassified as an "exempt" employee and wrongfully denied overtime pay.

This case may be getting extra attention because it involves a celebrity, but this scenario is sadly common. According to recent news reports, a record number of lawsuits have been filed this year regarding wage and hour violations. With 7,064 suits filed under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) so far this year, numbers have already surpassed the total filings for all of 2011.

As with the Celine Dion lawsuit, many of these claims have to do with unpaid overtime, working off-the-clock hours and being misclassified as the wrong type of employee.

There are several reasons why FLSA claims have increased so much in recent years, including the fact that the economy has been so bad. Additionally, the Labor Department has been increasing enforcement efforts and pursuing violating employers more aggressively.

Recently, a spokeswoman for the agency noted: "The wage and hour division has stepped up enforcement efforts on behalf of vulnerable workers - such as low-wage workers, migrant or seasonal laborers, workers with limited English language skills and workers who are unaware of their rights or are reluctant to file a complaint when subject to labor violations."

Times are still tough here in Florida and around the country. And even though workers have enough trouble making ends meet as it is, there are some unscrupulous employers who will try to deny employees money that they have earned and are entitled to receive. The first line of defense for employees in this situation is to take time to understand their legal rights and options.

Source: MSNBC, "Growing number of workers complain about being shortchanged," Eve Tahmincioglu, July 26, 2012

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