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Frequently Asked Questions

The specific facts of your situation and which state’s law applies will affect your rights. While it is impossible to precisely analyze a particular situation without knowing the details, below are some general questions about workers’ and consumers’ rights.

WORKPLACE QUESTIONS

· My employer makes me perform certain work-related tasks before or after my paid shift. Is that legal?

o The U.S. Supreme Court has held that under federal law, tasks that are “integral and indispensable” are compensable. Worksite preparation, logging into computers, putting on or taking off safety equipment—courts and/or the Department of Labor have found all these compensable work

· My employer makes me work over 40 hours per week but doesn’t pay me overtime. Is that legal?

o Overtime must be compensated at 1.5 times your regular rate of pay unless your job is “exempt” from the overtime laws. Which jobs are “exempt” is a complicated question, but merely being paid a “salary” instead of an hourly rate is NOT enough to make you exempt.

· I get my paid time deducted for a lunch break that I don’t actually get to take. Is that legal?

o It is not legal to deduct from work time just because the company calls it a break. If you have to perform work-related tasks during the break, you should be paid for that time. Additionally, rest breaks of short duration must be paid. Federal law requires, at a minimum, that breaks of 20 minutes or less be paid. Some states, like Kansas, require that breaks less than 30 minutes be paid. Whether the employer must provide a break varies from state to state.

· Can I be fired if I complain about my company’s failure to pay correct wages?

o The law prohibits an employer from retaliating against a worker for seeking to enforce labor laws.

· I earn tips in my job, but not enough to make minimum wage. Is that legal?

o Employees who regularly earn tips can be paid a “tip credit” rate below the standard minimum. But the employee must retain enough in tips to result in at least the minimum wage. There are many restrictions on using the sub-minimum rate, and if the rules are violated, the employer must pay the full minimum wage even though the employee also retains tips.

· The company I work for calls me an “independent contractor” and does not pay me overtime. Is that legal?

o The rules for determining whether a worker is really an “employee” or an “independent contractor” are complex, and depend on how much control the company has over the worker’s conduct. Many courts have found that so-called “independent contractors” were really employees entitled to minimum wage, overtime, and other benefits.

CONSUMER QUESTIONS

· I got a bill for goods or services I didn’t know I would have to pay for. What can I do?

o You have a right to be informed about the charges for consumer goods and services before being charged. It is an unlawful and deceptive practice to load a bill with additional charges that were not disclosed in advance.

· A company is threatening to report me to “collections” and the credit bureaus if I don’t pay a bill, but the bill is wrong—I don’t really owe it. What can I do?

o Threatening to take action that the company cannot legally take is a violation of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. You have a right to dispute the bill. And under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, you have a right to accuracy in your credit report.

· I bought a car in Missouri but I never got the title and now I cannot license the car. What can I do?

o Missouri law provides that if a consumer does not receive title to the car, the sale is void and you do not have to pay for the car.

· I got a loan, and now the interest rate is higher than I was told. What can I do?

o The Truth In Lending Act requires that you be informed correctly about the rates and charges on your loan. If you received false information, you may be entitled to receive twice the amount of finance charges you paid.

· How can I protect myself from consumer fraud?

o Deal only with reputable and well-known businesses. Ask your friends and family for referrals to businesses they know to be honest and fair. There’s truth in the old saying, “If it looks too good to be true, it probably is.”

The information you obtain at this site is not, and is not intended to be, legal advice. You should consult an attorney for advice regarding your individual situation. Contacting us does not create an attorney-client relationship. The choice of a lawyer is an important decision and should not be based solely on advertisements.