As outlined in the Fair Labor Standard Act, federal law requires overtime pay to be paid when:
- An employee works more than 40 hours in a one-week period
- The employee is not an exempt employee
The rate of overtime pay is called “time-and-a-half” and simply means 1 1/2 times the employee’s regular rate of pay. For instance, if an employee makes $20/hour, then overtime would be at the rate of $30/hour ($20 x 1 1/2 = $30).
If the employee is exempt, then employers are not required to pay overtime. This typically applies to jobs like:
- Farm/ranch employees;
- Seasonal employees at agricultural fairs (e.g. state fair employees);
- Newspaper vendors/carriers;
- Occasional labor for private residences (e.g. babysitters);
- Forest protection and fire prevention;
- Anyone who must sleep at their place in employment;
- Youth camps that offer child care;
- Public officials;
- Volunteers for a profit/non-profit organization; and
- Executive, administrative, professional employees who are paid a salary.
However, employees with those titles should not assume that they are not paid overtime. Instead, employees should look at their employment contract or the employee handbook to determine if they are exempt or non-exempt employees.
What Happens If Overtime Pay is Withheld?
It is illegal for an employer to withhold overtime pay from an employee who is entitled to receive it. If this occurs, the employer is in violation of federal law and may face the following consequences:
- A civil lawsuit for damages (lost wages, lost profits, etc.);
- Change of management; and/or
- Injunction that would restrain the company from violating the FLSA.
The injunction would essentially force the company to change any policy they have that violates the FLSA’s laws on overtime. If an injunction is issued, the focus is not to remedy the wrong done to the employee fighting for overtime pay, but to make sure that the company doesn’t let it happen again.
What If I Wasn’t Sure If I Was Entitled to Overtime Pay?
Many employees are not aware of their standing as either an exempt or non-exempt employee. If you worked more than 40 hours in a week and you are non-exempt, meaning you are not listed as exempt, you are entitled to overtime pay.
It is generally advised that you first bring to your employer’s attention that you worked more than 40 hours and did not receive overtime pay. Human resources will usually investigate and rectify the situation. However, if the problem is not resolved, you may wish to consult an attorney as quickly as possible.
Do I Need a Lawyer for Help with Overtime Pay Laws?
An experienced employment lawyer can answer any questions you may have regarding overtime pay laws. If you are in a situation where you may need to file a lawsuit against your employer, an attorney can walk you through the process and represent your best interests in court.