How Long Do Employees Have to File an Unpaid Overtime Claim?
Unless they fit into an exemption, the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) provides employees the right to overtime pay for hours beyond 40 in a workweek. If an employee was improperly denied the full wages that they earned, they can file an unpaid overtime claim against their employer.
Similar to other employment law claims, unpaid overtime claims are subject to strict deadlines. If an employee fails to act prior to when the statute of limitations expires, their claim may be automatically dismissed without ever receiving a hearing on the merits.
The Basic Standard: Two-Year Statute of Limitations for FLSA Claims
Under the FLSA, most wage and hour claims—including unpaid overtime claims—are subject to a two-year statute of limitations. In other words, an employee who was denied the full and fair overtime pay that they earned has two years to file a lawsuit. If they fail to bring a claim before the two year deadline runs out, then their case may be dismissed by the court. It is crucial that employees act quickly to protect their rights.
In an unpaid overtime claim, the statute of limitations does not continuously “reset” with new violations. Put another way, a court will only award damages for unpaid/underpaid wages that occurred within the applicable statutory review period .
As an example, imagine that a Florida employer systematically underpaid overtime wages over a course of four years. Courts will only be able to award an employee compensation for wrongful acts that occurred within the statutory deadlines—meaning any part of an unpaid overtime claim that occurred more than two years ago before they file their claim may not be collectible under federal law.
The Exception: Three-Year Statute of Limitations for ‘Willful’ Violations
It should be noted that there is an important exception to the FLSA’s two-year statute of limitations. That deadline can be extended to three years, if the employer’s violation is deemed ‘willful’. Willfulness is a complex and much litigated subject under federal law.
Essentially, a willful violation is one in which the employer knew that their conduct was prohibited by the FLSA or one in which the employer demonstrated a reckless disregard of federal employment law. If an employer willfully or recklessly failed to pay overtime, affected employees have three years to bring a claim—meaning they can recover damages for any violations that occurred within the last three years if they are successful in proving liability.
Call Our South Florida Overtime Lawyers for Immediate Help With Your Case
At Pike & Lustig, LLP, our West Palm Beach employment law attorneys fight tirelessly to protect the rights of our clients. If you have questions about your legal options, we can help. To set up a strictly private consultation with an experienced employment lawyer, please reach out to us now. With offices in West Palm Beach and Miami, we serve employers and employees all over Florida, including in Miami Beach, Hialeah, Palm Beach Gardens, Fort Lauderdale, Hollywood, Delray Beach, and Boca Raton.