Maryland employees generally have two years to file a claim for unpaid overtime wages against their employer or former employer. That period can be extended to three years if the employee can prove that the employer’s failure to pay overtime was “willful.” These time frames are very important, particularly for long-time employees who have terminated their employment.

Here’s why.

Assume that you have been working as an hourly employee for a company for 5 years. You regularly have worked 45 – 50 hours a week, but you and your employer agreed that you would receive only straight time for all hours. Suddenly, a new supervisor comes on the scene, takes a disliking to you, and fires you. You now decide you want your overtime pay. How much can you recover?

Assuming for this example that the failure to pay overtime was willful, you can “go back” three years from the date you file your lawsuit. Therefore, if you were to be fired on June 1, 2013, your claim can “go back” for the period that games for girls began on June 1, 2010. But keep in mind that the “look back” period begins from the date that you file your lawsuit, not from your last day of employment. So, if you wait to file your lawsuit until July 1, 2013, you can only sue for the period from July 1, 2010 through July 1, 2013.

So what’s the problem?

Since you no longer are working, your three-year period covered by the lawsuit includes a month in which you were not working and for which you have no overtime claim. Meanwhile, the June 2010 month for which you had a claim when you were fired has “fallen off” the back end of the claim period. Similarly, if you file your lawsuit on August 1, 2013, then the claim period covers August 1, 2010 through August 1, 2013, and two months of that three-year period do not contain wages. Your claim for overtime continues “dropping off” the back end of the period.

The lesson is that time is of the essence when it comes to overtime claims. If you suspect that you are entitled to overtime, contact our Maryland overtime attorneys right away. Our employment law attorneys can assess your situation, let you know if your rights have been violated, and can pursue a claim on your behalf to recover the full compensation to which you are entitled.