Forced Overtime

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What Is Forced Overtime?

Under federal law, employers are generally allowed to require their employees to work as many hours as they wish. However, the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) requires that, for some jobs, any employee who is required to work more than 40 hours a week be paid time and a half (their regular hourly wage plus 50%).

Accordingly, forced overtime (sometimes called “mandatory overtime”) is generally legal, at least under federal law. State laws differ from state to state. In addition, some occupations, such as nursing, are subject to more overtime regulation then other occupations.

Are There Any Limits to Mandatory Overtime?

A very small number of states (including California) have placed some limits on forced overtime. In California, employees may refuse forced overtime without penalty if they have worked at least 72 hours during the past workweek. However, nothing stops an employee, who is willing, from working as many hours of overtime as he or she wishes. Just like under federal law, and most other states, an employee in CA who is required to work more than 8 hours in a day (as opposed to 40 hours in a week) must be paid extra for every hour above the limit that they work.

Under federal law there is no limit to how much overtime an employer can require of an employee, as long as the employee is paid in accordance with the law, and the mandatory overtime does not create a safety risk.

There are at least sixteen states with restrictions on mandatory overtime. The states are Alaska, California, Connecticut, Illinois, Maryland, Minnesota, Missouri, New Jersey, New Hampshire, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Texas, Washington, and West Virginia. The restrictions range from limiting the number of hours worked to prohibiting the practice of mandatory overtime in certain occupations. Some states also prohibit the use of mandatory overtime as a means to overcome staffing problems.

Union contracts may restrict the amount of overtime demanded. Violation of such agreements is considered a breach of contract.

What If I Refuse to Work the Additional Time?

If an employee refuses to work overtime when requested to, the employer has the right to penalize the employee. Such punishments may include termination. However, this assumes that all aspects of the overtime are legal. If the mandatory overtime is in violation of contract, unpaid, or represents a safety or health hazard, then the overtime may be challenged.

What Happens If My Employer Forces Me to Work Overtime but Refuses to Pay Extra?

Although most jobs are governed by the FLSA, there are some exceptions to the overtime law. Such exemptions include, but are not limited to:

Do I Need a Lawyer For My Mandatory Overtime?

Employers are often at an advantage in mandatory overtime cases. If you believe your rights have been violated with regards to compulsory overtime, it is crucial to seek an experienced employment lawyer to help.

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Last Modified: 01-14-2014 10:07 AM PST

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