What's Your Unpaid Wage Claim Worth in Mississippi?

Learn how to calculate what you're owed in unpaid wages and penalties in Mississippi.

Although Mississippi does not have its own laws governing minimum wage or overtime, Mississippi employers must comply with the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). The FLSA sets baseline rules that employers in all states must follow, including minimum wage and overtime rules. If your employer has failed to pay you properly or in a timely fashion, you may be entitled to recover not only your unpaid wages, but also penalties intended to punish your employer for wage violations.

Unpaid Wages

Employees must be paid at least the minimum wage for each hour they work. You are entitled to be paid the highest applicable minimum wage where you work, whether that's the federal, state, or local rate. Because Mississippi doesn’t have its own minimum wage law, employees in Mississippi are entitled to the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour. Mississippi law prohibits cities and local governments from establishing a higher minimum wage.

To calculate your unpaid minimum wage claim, take the difference between what you were actually paid per hour and what you should have been paid per hour, and then multiply that amount by the total number of hours you worked. If, for example, your employer paid you only $5 an hour for four weeks of full-time work, you would be entitled to an additional $2.25 an hour times 160 hours (40 hours × 4 weeks), or $360.

If you receive tips at your job, your employer can pay you as little as $2.13 an hour, as long as you earn enough in tips to bring your total hourly pay up to at least the minimum wage. If not, your employer must make up the difference. To learn more, see Mississippi Laws for Tipped Employees.

Unpaid Overtime

Failing to pay employees properly for overtime is one of the most common wage violations by employers. In Mississippi, employees are entitled to overtime under the FLSA if they work more than 40 hours in a workweek.

Not all employees are entitled to earn overtime, though. While hourly, nonexempt employees have a right to overtime, other categories of employees are exempt. The most common exemptions are for outside salespeople and “white-collar” employees who do professional, managerial, and high-level administrative work (see ourovertime page for more details and exemption categories). Unless your employer can prove that you fit into one of these narrow exemptions, you are entitled to receive overtime.

If your employer has failed to pay you for overtime hours, your unpaid wages are the difference between what you should have been paid and what you were paid. For overtime hours, employees are entitled to time-and-a-half. This means that you're owed an extra 50% of your hourly rate, on top of your regular pay. For example, if you are usually paid $8.50 an hour, you are entitled to $12.75 an hour for overtime.

Example: Marvin usually works five eight-hour shifts a week, doing groundskeeping and maintenance at a hotel. He earns $10 an hour. Several of his coworkers catch the flu, so Marvin picks up an extra shift. For that week, he is entitled to $10 an hour for his first 40 hours of work ($400), plus $15 an hour for his eight hours of overtime ($120), for a total of $520.

Unpaid Breaks and Time Off

Neither federal nor Mississippi law gives employees the right to take meal or rest breaks during the workday. However, if your employer lets you take breaks, you are entitled to be paid for:

  • any short breaks (lasting 20 minutes or less) during the workday, and
  • any time during which you must work, even if your employer calls it a break. For example, if an office receptionist must eat lunch at her desk in order to cover the phones and accept deliveries, she is entitled to be paid for that time – even if her employer calls it a “lunch break.”

To calculate your unpaid break wages, add up how much time you spent on shorter breaks that should have been paid or breaks that you had to work through. Multiply this extra time by your hourly rate. And don’t forget overtime: Breaks for which you should have been paid count as hours worked, which means they may push your total hours above 40 per week.

Penalties for Unpaid Wages

In addition to paying your unpaid wages, Mississippi employers can also be required to pay liquidated damages. Liquidated damages are intended to compensate you for financial losses caused by your employer's actions that are difficult to measure.

An employee who wins a minimum wage or overtime lawsuit can receive liquidated damages in an amount equal to his or her unpaid wages. For example, if your employer failed to pay you $1,500 in overtime, you would be entitled to an additional $1,500 in liquidated damages, or $3,000 total.

Filing a Wage Claim or Lawsuit

If your employer failed to pay you all of the wages you earned, you can either file a complaint with the Wage and Hour Division of the U.S. Department of Labor or file a lawsuit. Mississippi doesn’t have its own state enforcement agency.

Whether you plan to file a wage claim or lawsuit, you should move quickly. For violations of federal law, you have two years from the date your employer violated the FLSA (or the date you learned of the violation) to sue or file an administrative claim. If your employer violated the law willfully, you have three years to file a claim or lawsuit. Different time limits may apply to other claims that you might have, such as a breach of contract claim.

To find out the full extent of your claims and deadlines, consult with an an experienced Mississippi wage and hour lawyer. A lawyer can file a wage claim on your behalf or file a lawsuit in court seeking to collect your unpaid wages. If you win your lawsuit, your attorney can ask the judge to make your employer pay your attorneys' fees.

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