I can’t afford to pay a lawyer. Can you still help me?
Yes. When it comes to most of the cases we handle, Biller & Kimble doesn’t ask you to pay anything out of pocket. Our initial consultations are free and confidential, and if we take your case, we usually advance all of the costs for the case. We only get paid for our work and reimbursed for our advanced costs if you prevail in your case. Even if we are unsuccessful, we will not ask you to pay us anything.
How will the lawyers be paid?
Most wage laws allow prevailing employees to recover their attorneys’ fees and litigation costs from the defendants. As a result, Biller & Kimble takes cases on a contingency fee basis, where you don’t pay any money out of pocket to bring your claim, and never have to pay anything unless you recover money. If we prevail, Biller & Kimble will be paid either a percentage of your settlement amount (usually 33%) or we will ask the court to require the defendants to pay our fees and costs.
I think I might have been paid wrong, but I no longer work for the company that underpaid me. Is there anything I can do?
Yes. If you worked for the company within the last three years, you can still recover unpaid wages for that period. No matter the circumstances under which you left your employment—whether you were fired, left for greener pastures, or anything in between—the federal and state wage laws still protect you. But you must act fast so you don’t lose out on any back wages.
I think I might be getting paid wrong, but I still work for the company. Is there anything I can do?
Yes. This is a situation where you really should seek legal counsel before acting. It is illegal for your employer to retaliate against you for asserting your rights under most federal and state employment laws. That includes firing you, demoting you, or otherwise changing the circumstances of your employment for the worse. A lawyer can help make sure that you act in a way that gives you the most protection under the law.
The vast majority of employers are smart enough to realize that after they have been sued, retaliating against their employees only creates more trouble for them. If you are retaliated against after bringing a case, however, Biller & Kimble will aggressively pursue all of the remedies you are entitled to.
What about my tips? Don’t those count toward my wages too?
Only for the limited purpose of making up the difference between full minimum wage and tipped minimum wage. Other than that, your tips don’t count toward your wages. After all, they were paid to you by your customers, not your employer.
Because you receive tips, the law allows your employer to pay you a pay rate lower than minimum wage. It does not allow them to “double dip,” by paying a lower pay rate AND counting the tips you receive as wages they paid. The tip rules can be a little complicated though, so if you have questions, you should call us.
So my employer hasn’t taken the tip credit properly. Who cares?
Well, you should care. If your employer is taking a tip credit from your wages when they aren’t allowed to, they are stealing from you. Not only you, but probably all of your co-workers, too.
Maybe more importantly, when a violation is found, the law says they have to pay you back wages at full minimum wage for all of the hours you worked, plus possibly additional amounts as damages. Those numbers can add up quickly. In other words, it is not just the stolen tips that you can recover. You might be able to also recover the missing wages for every hour that you worked.
I’m paid a salary. How could I be entitled to overtime?
The label that your employer has given you has nothing to do with whether you are entitled to overtime. Often, employers pay their workers a salary as a way to make them work long hours without getting the additional pay that an hourly employee would receive. The legal question is focused on what you are actually doing in your job, not the label your employer has provided. Are you managing employees? Can you hire and fire? Do you exercise discretion regularly? If the answer to all those questions is no, there is a good chance you are misclassified, and should be receiving overtime pay.
I agreed to be an independent contractor when I started. Now I’m hardly making any money, but my company says the wage laws don’t apply to me. Is there anything I can do?
Again, the label your employer has given you has nothing to do with whether you are entitled to minimum wage and overtime. The law considers the actual circumstances of your employment, and the “economic reality” of the situation, when determining if you are an employee or properly classified as an independent contractor. One of the primary factors to consider is the level of control the company exercises over you. Also relevant is whether you are doing the work that the company offers to the public. For example, if a plumbing company hires you to work as a plumber in their customers’ homes and businesses, you are likely an employee. You are completing the very services the company offers to the public. On the other hand, if a computer software company hires you to fix the plumbing system in their office, you are likely an independent contractor.
My boss wants me to sign something called an “arbitration agreement.” What is that?
An arbitration agreement is an agreement that you will not sue your employer in court, but will bring your claims through a private court-like system. Most of the time, arbitration agreements also include a class action waiver, which means whatever case you do bring in arbitration will be on behalf of you and no one else.
Everyone’s circumstances are different, and you should contact a lawyer to discuss your specific situation if you have been asked to sign an arbitration agreement. But generally, we see very little benefit to workers when they sign an arbitration agreement. The benefits seemingly go exclusively to the employer who is trying to avoid being sued.
If your employer wants you to sign an arbitration agreement, you should contact an attorney to see if it makes sense for you.