• David Martin

Underpaid & Overworked: The Need to Keep Employers Honest


We have all seen the recent increase of “help-wanted” and “now hiring” signs. It seems there are not enough people looking for jobs – especially in the restaurant and hotel industries. Surveys reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics in December 2021 noted that 958,000 restaurant and hotel workers left their positions in 2020. COVID hit these industries very hard, but they are expected to rebound and grow over the next 10 years. By 2030, it is expected there will be 2.4 million jobs. So, if the employment need is now increasing and concerns of COVID are diminishing, what factors are causing workers to look for employment in other directions?


The Department of Labor Wage and Hour Division District Director Jamie Benefiel in Columbia, South Carolina, contends that employers “… must take into account that retaining and recruiting workers is more difficult when employers fail to respect workers’ rights and pay them their full wages.” The Department of Labor cannot monitor all employers across the United States, but plaintiff's attorneys can assist in that endeavor. While most employers may be following the law, a bad experience by a substantial number of employees can create difficulties for an entire field. It is critical for bad employers to be held accountable.


Recent Decisions

The Department of Labor recently held accountable a Goose Creek, S.C. Los Arcos Mexican Restaurant. It had underpaid 21 workers and worked minor-aged employees more hours than permissible by law. Over $108,000 in back wages and liquidated damages were recovered for the affected workers. While that is a good result to bring about justice, it only scratches the surface.


Alabama Child Labor Laws – A Quick Refresher

  • Minors who are 14 or 15 are allowed to work up to three hours per day on school days and six days per week.

  • This work must be between the hours of 7am and 7pm, and not during school hours of 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.

  • The total hours per week cannot exceed 18.

  • When school is not in session, the hours increase to 8 hours per day at 6 days per week, but not over 40 hours.

  • The working hours even during those times are limited to 7 a.m. and until 9pm.

  • It is also necessary to document a 30-minute break for any child of this age employed more than five continuous hours.

  • Ala. Code § 25-8-35 list prohibits occupations considered dangerous.

  • There is not an hour restriction on students aged 16-18; however, they may NOT work before 5am or after 10pm on any night preceding a school day.

  • For 16-17 year-olds there are also prohibited occupations listed in Ala. Code § 25-8-43.


If every employer plays by the same rules, the marketplace is much more competitive and beneficial to our communities. Plaintiffs’ attorneys and trial lawyers play a very important role in filling that gap. If you feel that you have been wrongfully underpaid or wronged by your employer, contact an experienced employment attorney today.

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