A federal law entitled the “Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”)” provides that employers must pay any of their non-exempt employees a certain amount of wages when they work more than 40 hours during a given work week. The amount of wages that an employee receives for working more than 40 hours is called “overtime pay.”
The FLSA also sets the guidelines for overtime pay requirements. The law states that employers must pay out overtime wages at a rate of at least “time and a half” of an employee’s regular salary. This means that if a worker is normally paid $20 per hour for their work, then their overtime hourly pay rate would be $30 per hour (i.e., $20/hour x 1.5).
To expand on this scenario further, suppose this employee worked 50 hours in one week at their regular rate of $20 per hour. They would receive $800 for the normal 40 hours (i.e., $20/hour x 40 hours), and $300 for the amount of overtime hours worked (i.e., $30/hour x 10 hours overtime pay). Therefore, their final paycheck would come out to $1,100 for the entire 50 hours worked.
When are Employees Entitled to Overtime Pay?
As previously mentioned, certain employers are obligated to pay non-exempt employees for any overtime work performed in accordance with FLSA standards.
Generally speaking, an employer may be covered by the FLSA if they make $500,000 or more in yearly sales, or if their employees conduct business between different states (e.g., employees who make phone calls or ship packages to other states).
Therefore, a non-exempt employee who works for an employer that is covered by the FLSA is entitled to overtime payment if their work week exceeds 40 hours.
However, these extra wages will only apply to the hours worked for that particular week. So, for example, if a non-exempt employee works a 12-hour shift on one day, but does not work a total of more than 40 hours for their entire standard work week, then they will not be eligible to receive overtime payments.
Additionally, some states, such as Nevada, also have a daily overtime pay standard required by their state employment laws. Thus, in returning to the above example, a person employed in Nevada would be entitled to four hours of overtime pay for working a 12-hour shift, even if they did not exceed 40 hours of labor during their standard work week.
Lastly, in states that have a daily overtime standard built-in to their laws, an employee may be eligible to receive both the state and federal overtime wages if they meet the proper qualifications set out under these laws.
Which Employees are Exempt from Overtime Pay?
There is one major exception to overtime pay and it applies to employees who are considered exempt according to FLSA guidelines. Basically, the FLSA separates workers into two categories: non-exempt and exempt employees. Exempt employees cannot collect overtime pay.
Some examples of employees who are exempt from overtime payments include:
- Seasonal employees (e.g., workers at ski resorts, fairs, or amusement parks);
- External sales force employees;
- Certain computer specialists;
- Workers for fishing operations and seamen for foreign vessels;
- Small farm employees;
- Volunteer workers;
- Certain newspaper employees;
- Independent contractors; and
- Administrative, executive, and professional employees who are salaried.
The FLSA classifies exempt employees based on whether or not they are employed on a salary basis, and if their job duties fall into one of the five main exemption categories.
While there are also some miscellaneous exceptions, the most common exempt employees are the so-called “white-collar” workers. These are employees who typically make more than $100,000 per year and do not perform any tasks that would be considered manual labor (e.g., “blue-collar” work tasks).
Can My Employer Withhold My Overtime Pay?
An employer cannot legally withhold overtime pay from an employee who is qualified to receive it and is owed overtime pay. If they do, then the employee will have a right to file a claim with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”).
The EEOC will then conduct an investigation to determine whether or not the employee should be compensated or if the employer’s company policies need to be changed. The investigation can immediately lead to relief for the employee, but if it does not, then the employee may take the issue further by filing a claim against the employer in court.
Should I Speak with a Lawyer About My Overtime Pay Issues?
If you are involved in a dispute with your employer regarding overtime pay issues, then you should consider contacting a local employment lawyer for further assistance.
An experienced employment lawyer will be able to advise you about your rights, provide guidance on federal and state employment law requirements, and can help determine how much overtime pay you may be entitled to receive from your employer.
Additionally, a lawyer can assist with the filing procedures for both the EEOC and the court. A lawyer can also represent you during any relevant settlement sessions with your employer or before the court if necessary.