Can My Job Force Me to Work Overtime?

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Working Overtime Can Greatly Increase Your Take-Home Pay

Have you ever wished for a fatter paycheck to purchase something special or to pay for that mini-vacation you've dreamed about? The answer, if you're like just about everyone else, is probably yes. When you work overtime, you get premium pay in your check that can help make these things possible. The extra work hours may bite into your children and family time, but it can help you obtain the extra money you seek. It's a good idea, though – and actually important – to be aware of rules pertaining to overtime requirements.

Can You Be Forced to Work Overtime If You're Hourly?

If you work an hourly job of any type, your employer can force you to work overtime beyond the full-time, 40-hour workweek. Your employer must pay you at least 1.5 times your regular hourly wage for the extra time you work over full-time. If, when notified that overtime is expected, you refuse, the employer can actually fire you or subject you to disciplinary action for not putting in the extra hours needed. Disciplinary actions can include demotion with a lower wage or reassignment to another area of the company.

The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) does not require your employer to pay overtime rates for working on weekends, on your regular days off or on holidays unless that time takes you over 40 hours within the week. The FLSA also doesn’t require an employer to pay employees extra for working nights or weekends, but some employers do so to attract workers to the least desirable shifts.

How is Overtime Pay Calculated?

The FLSA does not establish limits on how many hours an employee may work per week or day. The overtime pay is based on a workweek and not by hours worked within a day. For example, if you work 10 hours in one day and you regularly work an eight-hour day, the additional two hours are not counted as overtime. Your regular number of hours are first calculated at regular pay. Then your overtime pay is based on hours worked over your regular hours at the minimum rate of 1.5 times your regular pay.

Can You Be Forced to Work Overtime Without Notice?

The FLSA does not have a provision establishing a required length of time within which advance notice must be given by an employer expecting you to work overtime hours. It takes into consideration only that you are paid at least 1.5 times your normal wage for overtime hours.

Can You Be Forced to Work Overtime If You're Salaried?

Full-time salaried employees generally work 40 hours per week in their job and receive a pre-determined amount of money for each week. They can be paid monthly, biweekly, weekly or on another set schedule.

There are exemptions to salaried employees based on minimum wage and overtime pay, as stated by the United States Department of Labor. Several types of employees are exempt from overtime pay, including professionals, outside salespersons, executives, administrative personnel and some employees performing computer-related work. If your job title is in any of these areas and you make more than $455 per week on a salaried basis, you are exempt from getting overtime pay. These salary requirements are not valid for teachers or for employees practicing medicine or law. Exempt computer employees must be paid a minimum of $455 per week on salary or a minimum of $27.63 an hour.

Does Mandatory Overtime Have Limits?

There are no limits placed on how many hours of overtime work you may be required to work under federal law. As long as you're paid the extra money for overtime pay and the hours don’t create safety risks, your employer can make you work any number of extra hours.

What Are Other Exceptions to the Mandatory Overtime Rules?

If you have a union contract or any other type of employment contract that restricts how much overtime an employer can demand, you will be exempt from working more hours than your specific contract sets as a limit. If your employer insists you work more than the limit stated in your contract, he is in breach of the contract and can be open to a civil suit.

Some states set mandatory overtime laws that limit the amount of hours you can be forced to work. You can check with your state’s department of labor to find your state-specific laws on overtime.