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Beware of Attorney Advertising

It seems that every time I turn on the television, I see attorney running advertisements suggesting that persons who had been paid a salary are entitled to “a hundred thousand dollars.” If that were true, there would be a lot of rich people and a lot of rich lawyers. The facts of the matter is that there are lots of lawyers that are like surfers, waiting to catch the next “big wave.” These are not Maryland employment lawyers who have been practicing labor or employment law for years for the most part but simply are lawyers who are trying to cash in on what they believe is easy money for doing cases that they can do easily by reading a few laws. The reality is that the Fair Labor Standard Act which is the federal minimum wage and overtime law has been around for well over 50 years. The law provides that exempt employees who are administrator (administering a department) or supervisors (generally of 4 or more workers) is not entitled to overtime. A lot of businesses, including law firms, pay workers including secretaries, office assistants and many other office workers a salary for a 40 hour week almost never requiring that they work past 40 hours. There is nothing illegal as that person is really an hourly worker who can figure out their hourly wage by dividing the weekly salary by 40. If an employer requires the worker to work past 5pm every now an then and allow the person some extra time off another time, there really is no reason to sue.

Back in the mid 1990’s, I was Chair of the state bar association’s labor and employment section. The MD volunteers lawyers group came to the bar asking for help with 3000 cases of workers who had not been paid their last paycheck or for their vacation pay. Generally, the cost of hiring an attorney to sue for the money was more than one could get and it was not worth it for lawyers or clients. My office drafted the Maryland Wage Payment and Collection Law which was passed that required that employers who stiff workers for wages without a bona fide reason would be liable for triple damages plus attorneys fees. Give lawyers a little incentive and they all come out. Despite the fact that this law has been on the books now for 20 years, it is as if someone just discovered it. Lawyers like myself who are employment law attorneys, particularly those who have been representing workers have know this for years. The problem is that there are really only a handful of plaintiff employment lawyers out there like me. I have been doing this for 35 years and could have told you about this issue 20 years ago.

Here is the big newsflash that I don’t want to say too loudly lest another hundred lawyers start trying to practice labor and employment law. If an employer treats an exempt worker such as a supervisor, manager or professional as an hourly worker, then they are stuck and have to pay them for overtime should it be worked. What do I mean? If you are salaried and exempt and the employer docks you on a hourly basis for doctor appointments or other things in increments of less than a half day at a time. For example, the employer deducts 2 hours of earned vacation time, they have converted you to a salaried worker. NOW, that would be a real commercial even though that has been the law for years. If you have this problem or one like it, don’t trust a surfer dude to be your lawyer, ask a Baltimore employment lawyer