Working Overtime: Employee Rights You Should Know About


Is it legal for my employer to make me work more than 40 hours per week?

If it’s paid then it’s okay?

Like everyone else who has a job but want a life outside of it, you’ve probably gritted your teeth at the memo requiring everyone to work 50-hour weeks. Perhaps, your supervisor tried to sweeten the deal by saying everyone gets paid an extra 50% of their hourly rates for every extra hour rendered, but you still can’t get over the fact that you’ll be missing your regular Wednesday one-for-the-road with the boys. And, like everyone else, you’ve probably wondered if it’s legal.

It is, as long as you’re properly compensated.

What’s the law on overtime work?

According to the US Department of Labor, “employees covered by the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) must receive overtime pay for hours worked in excess of 40 in a workweek of at least one and one-half times their regular rates of pay.

A workweek here is defined as any period of a fixed and regularly recurring period of 168 hours — seven consecutive 24-hour periods. It does not necessarily have to be a calendar week spanning Monday to Sunday.

Also, the regular pay on which overtime pay calculation is based can never be less than the minimum wage. Your earnings can be computed by piece-rate, salary, commission, or some other basis, but the basis is always the average hourly rate. This is computed by dividing the total earnings for the week by the number of hours worked.

FLSA, as revised in 2009, has set the minimum wage at $7.25 per hour for covered, non-exempt employees. A piece rate employee who earned $500.00 in piecework, for example, but took 50 hours to earn it is entitled to overtime pay for the 10 extra hours. The hourly rate would be $10 and the overtime pay for the 10 hours at 1.5 times the regular rate would be $50.

Is my company required to comply with FLSA?

All enterprises that have an annual business volume equal to or greater than US$500,000 are required to pay overtime rates to employees rendering more than 40 hours of work per week.

The only exemptions for these are hospitals; institutions primarily engaged in the care of the sick, aged, mentally ill, or disabled; schools for children who are mentally or physically disabled or gifted; preschools, elementary and secondary schools, and institutions of higher education; and federal, state, and local government agencies. They’re required to pay overtime regardless of business volume.

Employees of companies that engage in interstate commerce, regardless of business volume, are also entitled to overtime pay.


Are executives exempted from overtime pay?

If you’re high up in the corporate ladder, you might be working extra hours but will not be entitled to overtime pay if you meet all of the following conditions:

  • You are paid on a salary basis at a rate not less than $455 per week;
  • Your primary duty must be managing the enterprise or any of its divisions;
  • You must have at least two people directly reporting to you;
  • You have the authority to hire or fire other employees, or influence the hiring, firing or promotion of other employees.

Are administrative employees exempted from overtime pay?

If you’re an administrative employees you might not be entitled to overtime pay if you meet all of the following conditions:

  • You are paid on a salary basis at a rate not less than $455 per week;
  • Your primary duty is the performance of office or non-manual work directly related to the management or general business operations;
  • Your primary duty includes the exercise of discretion and independent judgment on significant matters.

What about doctors, professors, lawyers and artists?

They’re not entitled to overtime pay as well, if they’re paid on a salary basis of not less than $455 per week. In addition, it must be established that theywork they do involves advanced knowledge in science, specialized intellectual instruction, invention, imagination, or the exercise of talent in a recognized field of artistic or creative endeavor.

Blue collar workers rule the overtime kingdom

The FLSA is very clear on this.  No matter how highly paid, “blue collar” workers who perform work involving repetitive operations with their hands, physical skill and energy are entitled to overtime pay. This includes all non-management employees in production, maintenance, construction and similar occupations such as carpenters, electricians, mechanics, plumbers, iron workers, craftsmen, operating engineers, longshoremen, construction workers and laborers.

Overtime is legal, but so is overtime pay

Yes, it’s perfectly legal for you boss to ask you to work overtime. Always remember, though, that if you work with your hands, chances are you’re also entitled to overtime pay.

Do you have an overtime story to tell?
Share it with us in the comments section.

Astrid Eira

By Astrid Eira

Astrid Eira is a resident B2B expert of FinancesOnline, focusing on the SaaS niche. She specializes in accounting and human resource management software, writing honest and straightforward reviews of some of the most popular systems around. Being a small business owner herself, Astrid uses her expertise to help educate business owners and entrepreneurs on how new technology can help them run their operations. She's an avid fan of the outdoors, where you'll find her when she's not crunching numbers or testing out new software.

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