coin.jpgYou have to wonder how many employees in this country are being screwed out of the pay they’re owned when major corporations with fleets of labor lawyers keep thwarting the law.

On Monday, the Department of Labor announced yet another settlement, this time with mega retailers Wal-Mart, involving unpaid overtime and the misclassification of workers.

This wasn’t just a handful of workers who weren’t paid what they were owed. We’re talking 4,500 across the country. And this comes a year after a $40 million plus settlement for Wal-Mart stemming from charges it didn’t give workers appropriate meal breaks and pay.

I’m glad Wal-mart agrees to pay back wages when caught — the latest to the tune of nearly $5 million — but you’ve got to scratch your head over how this happens.

Office supply giant Staples also settled similar charges of misclassifying workers last year.

Is this just corruption by companies trying to make an even bigger profit, or did someone just not get the memo on how the nation’s labor laws work?

The labor department seems to think there was some sort of intent, or at least ongoing stupidity. In a statement, the agency said:

The civil money penalties assessed stem from the repeat nature of the violations.

Just so everyone’s straight, here’s a link to the DOL’s page on overtime rules under the Fair Labor Standards Act, or FLSA, and here’s a rundown on when workers are exempt from overtime pay:

The FLSA provides an exemption from both minimum wage and overtime pay requirements for individuals employed in bona fide executive, administrative, professional and outside sales positions, as well as certain computer employees. To qualify for exemption, employees generally must meet certain tests regarding their job duties and be paid on a salary basis at not less than $455 per week. Job titles do not determine exempt status. In order for an exemption to apply, an employee’s specific job duties and salary must meet all the requirements of the department’s regulations.

The FLSA requires that covered, nonexempt employees be paid at least the federal minimum wage of $7.25 for all hours worked, plus time and one-half their regular rates, including commissions, bonuses and incentive pay, for hours worked beyond 40 per week. Employers also are required to maintain accurate time and payroll records.

Maybe managers in Corporate America should take some time and read this.

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