Can I sue my Employer for Unpaid Overtime?

In today’s economy, many employees end up working well over 40 hours per week. Most of the time, the Employee receives what is known as “overtime.” Overtime is usually equivalent to 1.5 or 2 times the employee’s hourly wage. However, there are some situations where the employee is not paid overtime for any hours he/she worked over a 40-hour workweek. Is there any remedy for that? The Wage Payment and Collection Law provides such remedy?

What does this Act do?

The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania enacted the Wage Payment and Collection Law to ensure that every employee who should receive overtime does receive it. This Act sets strict timeframes by which an employer must pay their employee the overtime wages. The Act states:

All wages [(including overtime)], other than fringe benefits and wage supplements, earned in any pay period shall be due and payable within the number of days after the expiration of said pay period as provided in a written contract of employment or, if not so specified, within the standard time lapse customary in the trade or within 15 days from the end of such pay period.

In other words, the employee must receive their overtime wages (1) by the date agreed upon by said employee and employer OR (2) within 15 days from the end of the pay period.

What remedies are available under this Act?

This Act awards certain monetary damages to an employee if he/she does not receive the overtime wages by the date agreed upon or within 15 days from the end of the pay period. The Act specifically provides:

Where wages remain unpaid for thirty days beyond the regularly scheduled payday, or, in the case where no regularly scheduled payday is applicable, for sixty days beyond the filing by the employee of a proper claim or for sixty days beyond the date of the agreement, award or other act making wages payable, or where shortages in the wage payments made exceed five percent (5%) of the gross wages payable on any two regularly scheduled paydays in the same calendar quarter, and no good faith contest or dispute of any wage claim including the good faith assertion of a right of set-off or counter-claim exists accounting for such non-payment, the employee shall be entitled to claim, in addition, as liquidated damages an amount equal to twenty-five percent (25%) of the total amount of wages due, or five hundred dollars ($500), whichever is greater.

In other words, if overtime wages remain unpaid, the employee shall be entitled to: (1) his/her actual overtime wages and (2) liquidated damages equal to twenty-five percent (25%) of the total wages due. For example, if employee is entitled to $1,000 worth of overtime and hasn’t been paid, he/she would be entitled to $1,000 plus an additional $250 (25% of $1,000).

It is important to note that under this Act, a Court may award attorney’s fees. Therefore, if an employee is forced to bring a lawsuit and has to hire an attorney, the Act may pay for the employee’s attorney.