There is little that is more frustrating to employees than putting in your hours at work and not being properly paid. More and more South Florida residents may be feeling this aggravation as wage and overtime violations are apparently spiking across the country.

A record number of lawsuits have been filed under the Fair Labor Standards Act so far this year, reaching 7,064 claims. Only 7,006 wage and hour claims were filed in all of 2011, and that number is more than twice the number of cases filed a decade earlier.

The spike seems to be due to a number of factors, including a tough economy, an increase in FLSA enforcement and confusion about overtime rights of workers.

Regardless of the reasoning, employees here in Broward County have rights and they should not be shortchanged. Many workers, however, may not be aware of their rights when it comes to wage and overtime issues.

Some recent high-profile cases are helping some employees and employers, however, to learn about FLSA. Just this spring, Wal-Mart paid almost $5 million in damages and back wages to more than 4,500 employees whom were misclassified as being exempt from overtime pay.

Several years earlier the company doled out $352 million after it was accused of failing to provide workers with proper break time.

Misclassifying employees as exempt, so as not to pay them overtime, is one of the most common ways that employers engage in wage theft. Under the FLSA, employers must pay overtime for hours worked in excess of 40 in a week. Overtime pay must be at least one and one-half times the regular rate of pay. There are some categories of employees who are exempt, however.

The laws that govern wage and hour rights are quite complex and they do vary somewhat from state to state. Those who believe they may have been shortchanged when it comes to overtime or being paid for the hours they work may benefit from talking to an employment law attorney.

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