Over the past century, both federal and state governments have written and rewritten legislation establishing protections for employees, including rules dictating minimum wage and overtime pay. According to the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), a full work week is capped at 40 hours. If an employee is asked to work beyond that 40 hours, they are entitled to receive overtime pay. 

These laws are meant to prevent the exploitation of workers by their employers, and make sure they receive extra compensation for their extra time and effort. So what are these laws in Illinois, and what are the circumstances that they can (or can not) be invoked?

What Is the Law in Illinois?

Like every other state, Illinois its own set of overtime rules. The law, known as the Illinois Minimum Wage Law, is modeled largely on the FLSA. It states that any hours that an employee works over the full 40 hour week is entitled to 1.5x their normal wage. For example, if someone’s normally hourly pay is $10/hour, and they have to work four extra hours during a work week, the employee is entitled to $15/hour for those extra hours. 

But like any law, there are exceptions. Also, the real sticking point when it comes to overtime pay often boils down to whether the employee is exempt or not-exempt from these laws.

What Does Exempt/Non-Exempt Employee for Overtime Pay Mean?

One of the major caveats about overtime pay is that not all employees are eligible to collect it. The law differentiates between “exempt” employees, that the law does not apply to, and “nonexempt” employees, that the laws do apply to. Any employee that is paid hourly (as opposed to salaried workers) is automatically nonexempt. 

There are some jobs that generally fall into the exempt category, one of the most notable being high paying executive positions. In addition, officers of corporations or those have a very high degree of responsibility are also exempt, as are most managers and professionals. Professionals are categorized as those who require a higher level of education and/or licensure, such as doctors, lawyers, architects, teachers, and accountants. There are also jobs deemed exempt by law due to their unique nature like restaurant servers and salespeople. 

What About Salaried Employees?

Most people assume that just because they receive a salary instead of hourly pay, they are not eligible for overtime pay. This just isn’t true. If it were, companies could just classify all employees as salaried and overwork then constantly without paying them more. 

The same calculation used for hourly employees can be used for salaried employees, that is, time and a half for any hours over 40 worked in that week. The math might be a little more tricky, but the same concept applies. 

What Tricks Will Employers Use to Avoid Paying Overtime?

Most of the time, a worker can be cheated out of possible overtime pay just because they are not aware that they are entitled to it. Just like with salaried employees, a lot of independent contractors or  “managers” might also be eligible for overtime pay when they assume they aren’t. A manager of a particular location of a big box store is just as entitled to overtime pay as their hourly employees. 

They are hired by the powers-that-be to oversee a branch of that company, with limited control over what happens in the big scheme of things. The CEO of that corporation would not be entitled to overtime pay, but a manager of one of the local branches would be. The key is what the manager does, not necessarily their title. 

What If I Think I’m Owed Overtime Pay?

If you believe that you are owed overtime pay and have not received it, you are entitled to file claims under both Illinois law and the FLSA at the same time. Additionally, it is illegal for your employer to retaliate against you for doing so. The statute of limitations for unpaid overtime claims is three years. This means that you have three years from the date earned to file a claim. 

In addition to the overtime law, Illinois also has a law that lists a number of additional protections for workers, called the Illinois Wage Payment and Collection Act (IWPCA). This act allows employees to receive any earned bonuses, commissions, unused vacation, severance, and repayment of expenses they are entitled to either by law or by contractual agreement with employer. 

Do I Need An Attorney For Overtime Pay Issues?

If you believe that you have earned or are entitled to overtime pay and your employer is unlawfully denying so, you need to seek the services of an attorney. 

An experienced employment attorney can explain your rights under the law and help you plan the best way to proceed with a claim or other legal actions. They will be your advocate every step of the way and protect your rights.