Under federal law, it is not illegal for employers to require their employees to work overtime. However, the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) requires that, for some jobs, employees required to work more than 40 hours a week must be paid time and a half (their regular hourly wage plus 50%).

Even though the FLSA establishes a 40-hour work week of regular hours, there is not maximum limit on the number of hours your employer can ask you to work. As long as you are getting paid time-and-half for the hours you work over the 40 hours, your employer can require you to work the mandatory overtime hours if needed.

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Can My Employer Force me to Work Overtime?

Yes, your employer can force you to work overtime and can terminate you if you refuse to work the mandatory overtime. The FLSA does not set a maximum amount of hours that an employer is allowed to have their employees work. As long as the employees are getting paid time and half for the overtime worked, there are no limits set. Some states’ laws give their employees more rights, so it is important to check your state’s department of employment to determine the limitations set on mandatory overtime.

Are There Any Limits to Mandatory Overtime?

Federal law does not limit the amount of overtime an employer can require, so long as employees are paid in accordance with the law and the mandatory overtime does not create a safety risk.

Union contracts, and other types of employment contracts, may also restrict the amount of overtime an employer can demand under their collective bargaining agreement. Violation of these agreements is considered a breach of contract and can open the employer to a civil suit.

What If I Refuse to Work Mandatory Overtime?

An employee that refuses to work overtime when requested to do so by their employer may be fired or subject to discipline. However, there are some instances where termination of an employee because they refused to work overtime is illegal. If the mandatory overtime violates a contract, creates a safety or health hazard, or is not compensated in accordance with state and federal law – the overtime may be challenged.

Some states also set limitations on the mandatory overtime laws. For example, employees in California may refuse to work overtime without penalty if they have worked 72 hours or more during the previous week.

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

If you are a non-exempt employee, your employer force you to work more than 40 hours in a week, then refuse to pay you time and a half for overtime hours you worked over 40 hours. An employee may require you to work over the 40 hours scheduled period, but must pay you for the overtime hours that you worked.

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

  • Farm or ranch workers
  • Seamen or workers on water-bound vehicles
  • Youth counselors with child care responsibilities
  • Computer professionals
  • Administrative professionals
  • Salaried professionals

Do I Need to Consult a Lawyer about Mandatory Overtime?

Employers are often at an advantage in mandatory overtime cases. If you have been forced to work overtime in violation of an employment contract or union agreement, have not been compensated for your overtime work in accordance with state or federal law, an experienced employment lawyer and can advise you on your rights and potential remedies.