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Common Questions about Wage and Hour Claims

Contents

    This is a list of common questions about wage and hour claims.

    Questions about Wage Laws

    What is the federal minimum wage?

    The Fair Labor Standard Act (FLSA) sets a minimum wage for all workers in the U.S. The current FLSA minimum wage rate is $7.25 per hour. The FLSA allows state governments to set higher minimum wage rates for their state. While workers can be paid more than the FLSA’s minimum wage, they generally cannot be paid less.

    To learn more, read Getting Paid: Wage Laws and Common Violations.

    What is Michigan’s minimum wage?

    The Michigan Workforce Opportunity Wage Act (WOWA) establishes the minimum wage that Michigan workers must be paid. Currently, the minimum wage in Michigan is $9.25. Beginning in 2019, the state treasurer will adjust the minimum wage to reflect changes in the consumer price index.

    To learn more, read Getting Paid: Wage Laws and Common Violations.

    What are prevailing wage laws?

    Some employees working on government-funded projects (usually construction) must get higher wage rates. These wage rates are known as prevailing wage rates. Prevailing wage rates are comparable to wages earned by most workers with similar training and experience in the same kind of job within a geographic area. The rates are collected and published in schedules that set prevailing wage rates for particular projects in different areas of the state.

    To learn more, read Getting Paid: Wage Laws and Common Violations.

    What are living wage ordinances?

    Several Michigan cities, townships, and counties have adopted living wage ordinances and policies. Contractors and other businesses who receive economic assistance from these cities, townships, and counties must pay their employees a “living wage.” These ordinances vary, but they try to pay employees a wage that would allow them to live above the federal poverty level. Living wage rates are often adjusted annually. They are usually around $12.00 per hour for workers who receive employer health insurance and $14.00 per hour for those who do not.

    To learn more, read Getting Paid: Wage Laws and Common Violations.

    What are some common violations of wage laws?

    Some common wage violations include:

    • Failing to pay an employee for all hours worked

    • Payment at an hourly rate below the required minimum wage

    • Failing to pay time-and-a-half for overtime hours worked

    • Misclassifying workers as administrative staff, managers, independent contractors, or other categories exempt from overtime requirements

    • Requiring employees to do “off-the-clock” work, such as set-up and clean-up duties

    • Taking improper deductions that reduce an employee’s wages below minimum wage

    • Improperly charging employees for equipment, uniforms, cash register shortages, store losses, or other items

    • Withholding pay for poor performance or discipline

    • Requiring tipped employees to share tips with staff who do not usually receive tips

    • Failing to pay the difference when tips earned by tipped employees do not make minimum wage during a workweek

    There may be others, too.

    To learn more, read Getting Paid: Wage Laws and Common Violations.

    Do wage laws always apply?

    Federal, state, and local laws regulate wages in Michigan. Depending on the type of employment, some employers, employees, and work-related activities might not be covered by those laws.

    To learn more, read When Wage Laws Apply.

    What can my employer deduct from my paycheck?

    Employers can only deduct certain things from employee wages. Generally, your employer can only deduct money from your paycheck if it is legally authorized or you voluntarily agree to it. Deductions should not reduce your wages below minimum wage.

    To learn more, read What Can My Employer Deduct from My Paycheck?

    What is employment-at-will?

    Employment-at-will means that the employment relationship can be changed or ended at any time by either the employer or employee. Employment-at-will allows employers to change terms and conditions of work more easily. It does not allow employers to pay you less than the wage rates required by federal, state, or local laws.

    If your employer paid you less than the wage rates required by law, you have some rights. You can file a claim with the Michigan Wage and Hour Program or a complaint with the U.S. Wage and Hour Division. You can also sue your employer in state or federal court. To learn more about these processes, read Filing a Complaint with the Michigan Wage and Hour Program, Filing a Complaint with the U.S. Wage and Hour Division, and Filing a Wage Lawsuit in State or Federal Court.

    Do wage laws apply to me if I’m an independent contractor?

    Independent contractors are generally not protected by state or federal wage laws. But if your employer wrongly classified you as an independent contractor, you may still be covered by these laws. Independent contractor status is not determined simply by the category assigned to you by your employer. Various factors are used to determine this status. You may want to talk to a lawyer if you feel your employee classification is wrong. You can use the Guide to Legal Help to find lawyers and legal services in your area.

    Questions about Employment Complaints and Lawsuits

    What is the Michigan Wage and Hour Program?

    The Wage and Hour Program investigates complaints filed under Michigan’s wage laws. Michigan has three main laws that regulate wages. The laws are:

    • The Workforce Opportunity Wage Act (WOWA). You may file a complaint under the WOWA if your employer does not pay you minimum wage or overtime rates.

    • The Payment of Wages and Fringe Benefits Act (PWFBA). You may file a complaint under the PWFBA for unpaid paychecks, improper deductions, or problems with fringe benefits.

    • Michigan’s Prevailing Wage Law. You can file a complaint under the state’s prevailing wage law if your employer does not pay you prevailing wage rates on state-financed construction projects.

    To learn more about these laws, read Getting Paid: Wage Laws and Common Violations.

    How can I file a complaint with the Michigan Wage and Hour Program?

    The Wage and Hour Program offers a complaint form you can use. Once you complete the form, you can either mail it or file it online. You need to give contact information for you and your employer. You will also need to provide information about your position and people in charge at the company. If you have a prevailing wage complaint, you will need to provide information about the particular project and jobsite, and your job classification and work duties.

    You can also use the Do-It-Yourself Wage and Hour Forms (coming soon) to complete the form. The tool will walk you through all the information you need to provide. Your completed forms will be ready for you at the end.

    To learn more about filing a state complaint, read Filing a Complaint with the Michigan Wage and Hour Program.

    What is the U.S. Wage and Hour Division?

    The U.S. Wage and Hour Division receives and investigates complaints filed under federal wage laws. The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) is the main federal law that requires payment of minimum wage and overtime rates. There are also federal laws that establish prevailing wages on certain government-funded projects. To learn more about these laws, read Getting Paid: Minimum Wage Laws and Common Violations.  

    How can I file a complaint with the U.S. Wage and Hour Division?

    To begin the complaint process with the U.S. Wage and Hour Division, you will need to contact their nearest office. Complaints can be made by telephone or in person. Michigan offices of the Wage and Hour Division are located in Detroit and Grand Rapids. You will need to give your current contact information, job title, description of work, and details about how much you were paid and when. You will also need to provide your employer’s contact information and the name of the person in charge of the company, such as the owner or manager.

    To learn more about filing a federal complaint, read Filing a Complaint with the U.S. Wage and Hour Division.

    How can I file a lawsuit in state or federal court?

    Depending on your situation, you might be able to sue your employer in state or federal court. If the amount your employer owes you is $6,000 or less, you can sue your employer in small claims court. To learn more about the smalls claims process, read An Overview of Small Claims Court.

    If your employer owes you more than $6,000, you may be able to sue in a federal court or other state courts. This type of lawsuit is complex. There are no standard forms for you to use. You may want to talk with a lawyer about this. You can use the Guide to Legal Help to find lawyers and legal services in your area.

    Can I file both a wage complaint and lawsuit?

    If you already filed a lawsuit in court, you generally cannot file a wage complaint on the same issue with either the Michigan Wage and Hour Program or the U.S. Wage and Hour Division. If you already filed a complaint with the Michigan Wage and Hour Program or the U.S. Wage and Hour Division, you generally can later file a lawsuit in court on the same issue.  

    My employer filed for bankruptcy; can that affect my wage complaint?

    If your employer has filed for bankruptcy and you want to file a wage complaint or lawsuit, you will need to contact the bankruptcy court. Bankruptcy is complex. You may want to talk to a lawyer if you are in this situation. You can use the Guide to Legal Help to find lawyers and legal services in your area.

    I’m a union member—can I still file a wage complaint or lawsuit?

    Yes, you can generally still file a lawsuit under federal and Michigan wage laws. However, employees who are members of labor unions usually have additional rights separate from filing wage complaints and lawsuits. Union contracts typically establish wages and benefits. This means if you are a union member you can file grievances through your union representative. Grievance procedures are established under the union’s contract with your employer. Consider speaking with your union and filing a grievance before starting a complaint or lawsuit.