Discussion Points for Punto Legal- May 25, 2016

1. Citizenship. The presidential election is less than six months away! It looks like Donald Trump will be facing off against Hilary Clinton. If you are a permanent resident and are thinking about becoming a citizen so you can vote, you need to get your citizenship application in very soon. The basic requirements for citizenship are:

  • 5 years as a resident, or 3 years if you are married to a citizen;
  • Good moral character for 5 years before the date on your application. What do we really mean by "good moral character?" This means you (1) filed and paid your income taxes for the past 5 years; (2) you are current on any child support obligations; and (3) a clean criminal history for the past 5 years.
  • Pass a test of basic English and American history and Government. If you are 50 years old and have lived in the U.S. for 20 years as a resident, or if you are 55 years old and have lived in the U.S. for 15 years as a resident, you do not have to take the English test.

The fee for the citizenship application is $680. But, you may qualify for a fee waiver. You can get a fee waiver if your household income is less than 150% of the poverty line. For example, take a family of five. If the household income is less than $42,660, you can get the $680 fee waived.

2. Employment Law/Overtime. Last week, I met with a hardworking man from Mexico. He works seven days per week at a restaurant. He averages 65 hours of work per week. He has never been paid overtime wages. What can he do about it? He can bring an immediate lawsuit for his overtime pay. If you work as an employee over 40 hours per week, your employer has to pay you time and one-half for overtime. If you are making $15 per hour, the employer has to pay you $22.50 for each overtime hour. In the lawsuit, you can obtain all of the employer's records. If the employer does not have good records, the court will take your estimate of your overtime hours and award you money. If you win your overtime lawsuit, then you multiply your money award times two. For example, if the court awards you $12,000 in overtime, then you get $24,000.00. On top of that, you get your attorney fees. Let's say your lawyer put in 100 hours of work to take your overtime case to trial. Let's say he charges $250.00 per hour, then you would get an attorney's fee award of $25,000. Because the law allows attorney's fees, then the attorney does not eat into your money award.