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If your employer violates the law by not paying you overtime as required, what damages could you possibly recover? This is a question that many employees ask as they consider seeking legal counsel. By going to court and asking a judge to require compensation, employers are held accountable for breaking the rules which protect all workers everywhere. Here we take a look at what you could potentially recover in an overtime case.

What Exactly are Damages?

The term “damages” refers to the legal remedies sought by someone whose rights have been violated. In civil suits, including those concerning overtime, these are typically monetary in nature and are intended to make the injured plaintiff whole. As we will see below, damages can also be used to punish certain conduct in limited cases. But as a general rule, the point of asking for damages is to restore a party to the position he or she was in prior to the at-fault party breaking the law.

Damages do more than simply compensate an employee who has been wronged. They help enforce the law by holding employers liable when they break it. This ensures that not only will your rights be protected, but so will the rights of others working for your employer (and other employers who will take notice of the legal action that resulted in damages). There are even cases known as class action lawsuits which can help recover damages for hundreds or thousands of employees who have been wronged.

We will focus on which damages may be available for lawsuits that arise under the Fair Labor Standards Act, or FLSA, which is the primary federal law that deals with overtime, minimum wage, and related matters. You may have different legal remedies available if an employer has violated a state or local overtime law or ordinance, so be sure to ask an attorney about all available legal options.

Types of Damages You May Request in an Overtime Lawsuit

Every overtime lawsuit is different, so the damages available in one case will be different in both type and amount than the damages available in another case. With that in mind, here are some remedies you can potentially request in an overtime lawsuit:

  • Back pay. Perhaps most significant to you is receiving the back pay you deserve. Overtime is sometimes called time and a half because an employee must be paid 1.5 times his or her regular hourly pay rate for any hours worked above 40 in a given work week. If your employer has not paid you overtime, you can generally seek back pay for two years (sometimes 3 years) before you filed the lawsuit. This two-year or three-year period is known as a statute of limitations.
  • Liquidated damages. An employee can also ask for what are known as liquidated damages, which is an amount that is equal to the back pay. For example, if your employer did not pay you $3,000 in overtime and you successfully recover that amount, you are eligible to receive another $3,000 in liquidated damages. Employers do have a possible defense to liquidated damages, however. This is sometimes known as the “good faith” defense. If an employer can demonstrate that the failure to pay overtime was an honest mistake – meaning, the company reasonably believed it was in compliance with overtime rules – a judge may decide to reduce or eliminate a liquidated damages award.
  • Attorney’s fees and court costs. An employee who prevails in court on an overtime claim can ask the judge to award lawyer’s fees and court costs. This provision exists because lawmakers want to ensure equal access to courts by compelling employers to pay the expenses associated with having to bring legal action. Our national network of overtime lawyers takes most cases on a contingent fee basis, which means our attorneys only get paid when and if you do. You do not pay any attorneys’ fees or case expenses unless and until we get a recovery in the case, and there are no upfront costs. Because of the above-mentioned rule allowing successful litigants to seek attorney’s fees and court costs, we can ask the judge to order your employer to pay some or all of our attorneys’ fees.
  • Punitive damages. In some cases, it is possible to ask for what are known as punitive damages. These are designed to punish especially wrongful conduct, such as an employer willfully refusing to pay overtime when it knew it should have. Punitive damages are not awarded in every case and the specific circumstances of yours will determine if they are available.

Maximizing Your Recovery in an Overtime Lawsuit

When employees who have been denied their right to overtime retain The Lore Law Firm to represent them, we get to work building a case right away. If it becomes necessary to file a lawsuit, we ask for the most damages available under the law. To learn more about how we can help you get all of the compensation that you deserve, complete our free and confidential client intake form to get started.