Wage and hour lawsuits are on the rise

An article written in early 2020 noted that the number of wage and hour lawsuits that have been filed in the past 20 years has drastically increased. Now with so many people losing their jobs, Georgia employers should anticipate a surge of even more lawsuits, particularly in the restaurant industry, which is one of the sectors that has been the hardest hit.

Minimum wage issues

Servers in Georgia can easily be underpaid. Under federal law, servers may be paid as little as $2.13 an hour in wages, as long as their tips get them up to the minimum wage of $7.25 an hour. Though servers generally meet the minimum wage threshold, there may be changes as restaurants reopen and gain more customers, and employers need to ensure that their employees are paid minimum wage even if their tips do not get them there.

Exempt versus non-exempt status

Another common misstep in the workforce is for employers to treat an employee as exempt rather than non-exempt. Exempt employees, who are not paid overtime, must be professionals or executives, often in a management position, or work in an administrative capacity.  However, an employee’s job title – such as “store manager” – does not dictate that employee’s classification.

Employees in the restaurant industry are also protected by certain laws regarding tip pooling, which is a common industry practice.

Other employment claims on the rise

Wage and hour lawsuits are not the only ones on the rise. Harassment and discrimination claims have also increased lately, particularly among employees with disabilities and medical leave issues.  Employees have the right to report feeling harassed or discriminated against at work, without fearing retaliation. An employment law attorney is often a valuable ally in such situations.