November 23, 2016: Are Maryland home care workers entitled to overtime pay if they work more than 40 hours in a week for the same agency? With very few exceptions, the answer is “yes.” If you’re a home care worker in Maryland who has worked more than 40 hours in a week, you likely should have been paid the overtime rate for your overtime hours. And remember, hours worked may include travel time (which we’ll write more about in a later blog post).
Let’s start with a definition of overtime. After working 40 hours in a week, workers must be paid at least 1.5 times their regular hourly rate. This “time-and-a-half” rate is called the “overtime rate.” So if your regular hourly pay rate is $10 per hour, your overtime rate is $15.
Here’s an example. Let’s say you worked 45 hours one week and 35 hours the next week. In this case, you’re entitled to 5 hours of pay at the overtime rate. So if your regular hourly pay is $10, you should have gotten 5 hours of pay at $15 per hour. This is true even though you worked 80 hours in the pay period or 40 hours on average. Overtime eligibility is based on the workweek, so averaging weeks over a pay period is not permitted.
So, can you get the money you earned? Under Maryland law, the “statute of limitations” on most overtime claims is three years. This means that if you’re owed overtime wages for work you did at any time in the last three years, you might still be able to get back pay.
The law also allows for “double damages” or even “treble damages” on some overtime claims. This means that if you’re owed $5,000 in unpaid overtime, you might be able to request double or triple that—$10,000 or $15,000—plus interest, depending on the facts of the case.
One more thing. Home care agencies sometimes argue that they don’t have to pay overtime because they classify workers as “independent contractors” rather than employees. But remember: you can be an employee entitled to overtime even if your agency calls you an independent contractor. For more on the difference between an employee and an independent contractor, see our last blog post.
If you’re wondering if you might be entitled to compensation for unpaid overtime, call the Public Justice Center at (410) 625-9409, and tell us why you’re calling. Our legal services are always free.