One of the most asked questions our firm receives is what is the statute of limitations for overtime claims or how far back can an employee seek unpaid overtime? The answer is that depends on the case. Employees can automatically seek damages for the previous 2 years. However, in some cases, the FLSA allows employees to go back 3 years for unpaid overtime.
Two Year Period: All overtime cases allow an employee to seek unpaid wages for the previous 2 years. This means that from the date you file your overtime lawsuit, you can seek unpaid wage for the 2 years prior to the date of filing the lawsuit.
Three Year Period: The FLSA extends the statute of limitations from 2 years to 3 years for cases in which the employer’s violation is willful. A court will find an employer’s violation is willful if the employer knew or showed reckless disregard for whether its conduct was prohibited under the FLSA. Two specific examples include:
● A 3 year statute of limitations will apply where the employer has knowledge or knew that they are violating the FLSA but chose to do so anyway. For example, in Singer v. City of Waco, the Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit held that the evidence supported the jury’s verdict finding that the employer’s violation was willful because the assistant fire chief told another supervisor that he knew firefighters were being paid incorrectly, the city cancelled a training seminar which would have informed employees about their rights under the FLSA, and when questioned about overtime, the city attorney said, “we don’t even want to open that can of worms.”
● A 3 year statute of limitations may also apply where the employer had prior FLSA violations. For example, in Villegas v. Dependable Construction Services, Inc., the court held that if violations in earlier FLSA lawsuits against the employer are similar to the later lawsuits, it could show that the company had knowledge that they were violating the statute for the current employees and therefore, allow the current employees to recover damages for 3 years as opposed to 2 years.
Getting your employer to pay you unpaid overtime for 3 years instead of 2 years requires the services of attorneys who specifically focus on FLSA claims. If you have a question about whether you were properly paid overtime, contact Atlanta Overtime Attorneys for a fast, free consultation.