Recognized as an Illinois Super Lawyer in the area of employment law, Attorney Marni Willenson has helped thousands of workers to recover unpaid wages in lawsuits challenging the violation of rights guaranteed by federal and state wage and hour statutes. The most common wage and hour violations include:
- Overtime Violations. The federal Fair Labor Standards Act, Illinois Minimum Wage Law, Wisconsin Hours of Work and Overtime Law and similar overtime statutes in other states require employers to pay most workers overtime premium wages for all hours worked over 40 in a single workweek. However, many employers either ignore the overtime requirement or treat workers as “exempt” from overtime even when no exemption applies. Workers who are denied mandated overtime wages may be entitled to recover all of their unpaid overtime wages, an additional amount equal to the unpaid wages as “liquidated damages” under the Fair Labor Standards Act and additional penalties of 2% per month for each month of non-payment under Illinois law.
- Minimum Wage Violations. The federal minimum wage for most employees is currently $7.25 per hour. The minimum wage for most workers in Illinois is $8.25. Under both federal and state law, workers have the right to be paid the minimum wage for all hours worked in a single workweek. Thus, an employee who works 40 hours in a single week is entitled to minimum wages of $290 under federal law and $330 under Illinois law. These wages must be paid “free and clear.” This means, in part, that employers cannot charge workers for tools, equipment or other items that primarily benefit the employer and take deductions for these items from an employee’s minimum wages. Tipped employees can be paid lower wage rates under some circumstances if their tips are enough to make up the difference between their lower hourly wage rate and the statutory minimum wage. However, many employers have been sued for using unlawful tip pools or for taking all or a portion of the tips that belong to the tipped employees.
- Off-the-Clock Work. Employees are entitled to compensation for all of their time spent on compensable work activities. This means that they must be paid not only for their “productive” time but also for certain pre-shift and post-shift activities if they are considered an essential part of the primary work activity. For example, workers who must wear protective gear are often entitled to compensation for their time spent donning (putting on) and doffing (taking off) their protective gear before and after their work shift. Also, employers must pay for all time that they “suffer or permit” employees to work. This means that they cannot turn a blind eye to work that is being done off-the-clock, for example, by encouraging or allowing hourly-paid employees to work through their unpaid lunch periods or to check and respond to e-mail or take phone calls out of the office on their own time.
- Misclassification. To avoid overtime or minimum wage obligations, or sometimes by mistake, employers might claim that an employee is exempt even when no exemption applies. For example, some employers designate employees as exempt “administrative” or “managerial” employees to avoid overtime obligations even when the employees are non-exampt and are instead entitled to be paid overtime wages. Another pervasive practice is treating employees as alleged “independent contractors” even when the workers are actually employees entitled to all of the legal protections of the wage and hour and other employment statutes. When workers are misclassified, they can suffer multiple violations of their rights under federal and state law including unpaid overtime wages, minimum wage violations and non-payment for extensive off-the-clock work.
- Retaliation for Complaints About Wage Theft. The Fair Labor Standards Act and Illinois wage and hour statutes prohibit retaliation against workers for complaining to their employers or to a government agency about unlawful wage payment practices. Workers who suffer retaliation after making lawful complaints can bring suit to be reinstated to their jobs or for other damages.
During her career, Marni Willenson has represented thousands of individuals who have sued their employers to recover unpaid wages. She has secured millions of dollars in back wages and other damages in employment class actions filed in federal courts across the nation.
Her cases have included the following:
- Rosiles-Perez v. Superior Forestry Service, Inc. (M.D. Tennessee), where she served as lead counsel for three thousand forestry workers with wage claims under the Fair Labor Standards Act and the Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act.
- Hernandez v. Kovacevich “5” Farms, Inc. (E.D. California), where she served as lead counsel for several hundred farmworkers with wage claims under both federal and state (California) wage and hour statutes.
- Perez v. Comcast Corporation (N.D. Illinois), where she represents Comcast cable technicians who were hired through a labor contractor and paid as alleged independent contractors while installing, disconnecting and repairing cable service for Comcast customers.
Willenson Law accepts wage and hour cases on behalf of individual employees and groups of workers in class or collective actions to recover unpaid wages. Free consultations are frequently available in cases involving unpaid wages.