SOUTH FLORIDA — Owning and operating a successful drycleaning business requires you to follow a myriad of employment laws. Failing to comply with these laws can result in an expensive lesson.
The federal overtime law applies whether you have one small store, a chain or a plant. Moreover, employees cannot waive their right to overtime. Even if an employee agrees in writing that he or she will not be paid overtime, that person can still sue.
This is why employees sue employers for unpaid overtime or minimum wage violations more often than for any other reason.
Many drycleaning business owners and operators wrongly assume that if an employee works overtime without advance approval, in violation of a written policy, they do not have to pay for that overtime.
However, if the employer knows or has reason to know that the employee will be working an extra shift or worked later than scheduled, the employer is liable and must pay for that overtime. That individual can, however, discipline the employee for violating the policy.
If the employee does any work while at the store or plant before leaving, such as loading clothes into a van and or filing a delivery report, then the workday starts and ends at that point.
Moreover, workers must be paid for travel time between deliveries to homes and businesses.
Lastly, any breaks that last less than 20 minutes must be paid. Lunch breaks that last for more than 20 minutes do not have to be paid, as long as the employee is not doing any work during that break.
Drycleaning owners should not automatically deduct for lunch or other breaks.
Many times, employees sue, claiming that they had so many deliveries that they ate while on the go; others had so many clothes to clean and press, they skipped the meal. Therefore, the time that was automatically deducted should have been paid and included in that employee’s total hours worked for that week.
So just how exposed is his or her drycleaning business to claims?
Employers can be sued because they automatically docked lunch hours. Others get sued for unpaid overtime because they didn’t keep time records; they just had a schedule, and the employees alleged that they worked more hours than expected.
On the other hand, some allege that employees worked less than scheduled because business was slow.
And, some sued for unpaid overtime based on nothing more than the unpaid travel time.
The difference in the results of all of these cases ended up depending upon records maintained and compliance with the overtime laws.
Employers often claim the employees are lying, saying that the employees did not work any overtime, let alone the amount of overtime hours they claimed to have worked, and feel as though the employees’ lawsuits were akin to legal blackmail.
Despite protestations, these lawsuits cost employers money to defend and prove either that they didn’t do anything wrong or the need to settle.
When these business owners had no records or consulted any employment law attorney to ensure their pay practices were accurate, it cost significantly more money to resolve these lawsuits.
Whether an employee is exempt from the overtime laws is a complicated analysis that should be handled by an experienced employment law attorney, particularly because exemptions from the overtime laws are construed narrowly against the employer and in favor of the employee.
As such, the best thing you can do is to maintain accurate time-and-pay records and, of course, consult with a labor and employment law attorney to ensure that your pay practices are in compliance with federal and state wage and hour laws.
Information in this article is provided for educational and reference purposes only. It is not intended to provide specific advice or individual recommendations. Consult an attorney for advice regarding your particular situation.
To read Part 1, go HERE.