In the wake of mass business shut-downs and major market disruptions, millions of workers are being told not to report to work – they are being furloughed or laid off.

If you are one of the estimated 20% of workers already impacted, one of your first thoughts is usually something like “now where do I get money to pay my bills”?

Programs to assist laid off employees are being rolled out by state and federal agencies and have been widely covered by the media. These programs can be very important and helpful in obtaining some income replacement quickly and are mentioned below.

However, there is one particular source of compensation that can be very significant (often tens of thousands of dollars or more) but is rarely mentioned and commonly overlooked by employees who have been terminated – their right to recover unpaid overtime wages.

Regardless of what they may have signed, employees need to know that they likely still have the right to recover any unpaid back overtime wages that they may be owed.

3 Questions to Ask After being Laid Off

1. Am I Owed for Work I’ve Already Done – Unpaid Back Overtime Wages?

The following are the most common ways workers are cheated out of overtime pay:

    • They have been paid straight time pay for overtime (e.g. $25/hour for all hours worked, even hours over 40/week)
    • Receiving a fixed day rate with no overtime pay (e.g. $300/day even when working 40+ hours per week)
    • Being misclassified as a 1099 worker or independent contractor in order to avoid overtime pay
    • Misclassification of salaried employees as exempt from overtime (e.g. non-management workers who are paid a salary, but no overtime)

2. What are the Coronavirus Stimulus Benefits? Am I eligible?

There are three common coronavirus stimulus benefits: 

    • One-time direct payments of up to $1,200 for individuals and $2,400 for couples, plus $500 added for every child. Payments will be based on 2019 tax returns for those who filed them and 2018 information if they have not. Payments start to phase out above $75,000 in income for individuals and $150,000 for couples, with no benefits for individuals at or above the $99,000 or couples at or above $198,000.  See this page from the Washington Post for estimates on how much your payment may be.
  • Increased state unemployment insurance benefits of $600 per week for up to four months on top of what normal state benefits. The usual waiting periods and some of the qualification requirements have been eliminated, allowing more workers to obtain benefits faster. Claims should be filed immediately with your state unemployment agency.
  • Suspension of federal student loan payments through Sept. 30 with no accrual of interest on those loans.

3. Should I Get Severance Pay?

In most cases, whether or not you are entitled to a severance package will depend on the terms of your employment contract and/or your employer’s policy or practice of offering severance packages.

Even if you do not have an employment contract, and there is no company policy to provide severance, a request can be made and this can be a matter of negotiation.

In addition to actual pay, other items of compensation that can be included in a severance package can include:

  • Continuation of health insurance benefits, outplacement consulting and/or
  • If your employer offers you a severance agreement, it is important to consult with an attorney about what rights you may have and what rights you may be giving up by signing the agreement.

While we all await a “new normal” for the economy and employment, it is more important than ever for workers to be aware of their workplace rights, and how to protect their sources of income.

The Lore Law Firm continues to be here for our clients and potential clients. If you have questions or believe that your wage and hour rights have been violated, contact us for a free and confidential review of your situation.