Question

What can I do if a Louisiana employer does not pay me overtime or my vacation pay?

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Answer

Under a federal law called the Fair Labor Standards Act ("FLSA"), an employer is obligated to pay (a) at least minimum wage for all hours worked, and (b) one and one-half (1 1/2) times the worker's regular rate of pay for all hours worked over forty (40) in a workweek. Under the FLSA, an individual can file a type of lawsuit called a "collective action," which allows the aggrieved employee to seek damages not only on behalf of himself/herself, but also on behalf of similarly situated workers. A collective action has some similarities with a class action, but the main difference is that a worker wishing to participate in an FLSA collective action must affirmatively opt in to the lawsuit. In contrast, an eligible individual is automatically included in a class action unless they affirmatively opt out of the lawsuit. Thus, a worker wishing to participate in an FLSA collective action should immediately sign and return any opt-in forms that are received to ensure that their rights are protected. 

There are several types of damages that a plaintiff may recover under the FLSA. First, an individual can recover compensation for all hours worked over forty (40) for which the employer did not pay overtime. Second, an employee may recover liquidated damages in an amount equal to the amount of unpaid overtime compensation. For example, if your employer did not pay you $1,000 for overtime work you performed, then you can recover up to double that amount ($2,000) if a jury or court awards liquidated damages. Finally, a worker can recover attorney's fees and costs under the FLSA, in addition to judicial interest. It is particularly significant that the FLSA provides for the recovery of attorney's fees as many workers otherwise might not have the resources to secure legal representation for their claims.

In addition to the remedies provided for by the FLSA, a worker in Louisiana who is owed wages may have the right to pursue an action under the Louisiana Wage Payment Act. Under the Wage Payment Act, employers must pay all wages owed when an employee is discharged or resigned on or before the next regular payday or within 15 days of the employee’s departure. If an employer fails to do so after demand, then an employee may recover one day of penalty wages (calculated at the worker's daily rate of pay) for each day that payment is delayed, up to a total of ninety (90) days of penalty wages. A prevailing plaintiff can also recover attorney's fees and costs under the Wage Payment Act.

It is also important to note that a discharged worker may be entitled to recover unpaid vacation pay or PTO under the Wage Payment Act. An employee's right to receive vacation pay upon termination will depend on the employer's specific policies so it is advisable to contact a labor and employment law attorney as soon as possible if you have questions with regard to vacation pay you believe you are owed. 

Answered 08/05/2015

Disclaimer: This answer was provided by an attorney selected to Super Lawyers, and is intended to be an educated opinion only. This answer should not be relied upon as legal advice, nor construed as a form of attorney-client relationship.

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