Salaried workers sue for overtime

Is it possible for employees who are paid a salary to sue because they didn’t get overtime? It’s highly unusual, but a recent case shows how it can happen.

The case was brought by a group of Wal-Mart employees who claimed that the company changed their base salary so often that they were in effect hourly wage earners.  In general, federal law requires overtime pay for hourly workers who work more than 40 hours a week, it but exempts professional and salaried employees. The workers in this case were full-time Wal-Mart pharmacists. Wal-Mart agreed to pay them a base salary based on a minimum guaranteed number of hours, whether they worked those hours or not. But the workers claimed they weren’t really salaried employees, because Wal-Mart frequently changed the arrangement on them.  For example, one employee’s payroll records showed that on five occasions the company refused to pay his base salary because it had been altered based on “verbal agreements,” or it instituted “base changes” based on days off. A court said the case could go forward.