A federal law known as the “Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”)” governs the requirements for overtime pay. Its provisions state that employers must pay certain employees an overtime rate (i.e., at least 1.5x their normal pay) when their work performance exceeds 40 hours during a given work week.
For example, if an employee is typically paid at a rate of $20 per hour, then their overtime rate for working over 40 hours in a standard work week would be $30 per hour (i.e., $20/hour x 1.5 = $30/hour).
The FLSA also classifies the types of workers who qualify for overtime payments. Workers who are permitted to receive overtime pay are referred to as “non-exempt” employees. In contrast, workers who do not qualify for overtime payments are categorized as “exempt” employees.
When an employee is exempt, it means that their employer is not legally required to pay them the overtime rate for additional hours worked. This concept is called “overtime pay exemptions.” Overtime pay exemptions typically apply to workers who are salaried, or those who have unconventional work schedules and tasks.
Thus, in returning to the above example, a non-exempt employee would receive $30/hour for every extra hour of work that exceeded 40 hours in their standard work week, whereas an exempt employee would not receive any overtime pay for additional hours worked.
Therefore, an exempt employee should not expect to see a change in their regular paycheck (i.e., they are exempted from overtime pay), unless of course their employment contract states otherwise.
Which Types of Workers are Exempt from Overtime Pay?
As previously mentioned, the FLSA divides workers into two categories: exempt and non-exempt employees. The law also provides further instructions on when employees are considered exempt from overtime pay.
In general, this typically entails determining whether or not the employee is paid on a salary basis (e.g., usually workers who make more than $100,000 per year), and if their work tasks fall into one of the five main categories of exemption.
Some common examples of the types of workers who may be exempt from overtime pay include the following:
- Small farm workers and certain kinds of agricultural employees;
- Some types of newspaper jobs, carriers, or vendors;
- Any worker who must sleep at their workplace (e.g., overnight babysitters or live-in healthcare workers);
- Public officials;
- Employees of motion picture theaters;
- Volunteers (usually applies more so to non-profit organizations);
- Seasonal workers (e.g., staff who are employed by ski resorts or amusement parks);
- Seamen for foreign vessels or employees of fishing operations;
- Various types of workers employed in the retail space or service industry who get paid in commission or tips;
- Some transportation employees (e.g., taxicab drivers and railroad or airline employees);
- External sales force employees (such as workers who sell vehicles, but are not employed by the manufacturers);
- Forest protection and fire prevention laborers; and
- Salaried employees that have roles as executives, administrative staff, or are considered professional employees (e.g., white-collar workers).
There are also many miscellaneous positions that may exempt workers from receiving overtime payments. The reason for this is because in most cases applying the definition of “overtime exemption” depends on the actual tasks performed by a worker, rather than their title or job description.
Therefore, it is important for employees to review their employment contracts or their employee handbook to determine if they fall under the definition of an exempt or non-exempt employee, and thus may be owed overtime payments.
What Happens When Overtime Laws are Violated?
Employees who are exempt from overtime payment have no legal recourse. Under the law, they simply cannot collect overtime pay. Thus, if an exempt employee is seeking additional funds for extra hours worked, then they will have to speak with their employer about getting a raise or to try and negotiate some kind of bonus.
As for the workers who are non-exempt employees, their employers are legally required to pay them overtime for any hours they worked that exceed the required amount. If they do not comply with the FLSA guidelines or the applicable state laws for overtime pay, then the non-exempt employee can file a claim with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”).
The EEOC will then conduct an investigation into the employer, which can lead to either obtaining relief for the worker, forcing the employer to change their company policies, or both. If the results of the investigation are unsatisfactory for the worker, then they may file a wage and hour lawsuit with the court.
If the non-exempt employee brings a successful lawsuit, then they will most likely receive a damages award in order to reimburse them for lost wages and other expenses caused by the employer’s violation.
Do I Need to Hire a Lawyer for Help with Overtime Pay Laws?
Overtime law disputes often require the assistance of a lawyer. Thus, if you are involved in a dispute with your employer regarding overtime pay, then you should consider consulting a local employment attorney for further assistance.
An experienced employment attorney can guide you through the filing process for both the EEOC complaint, and if necessary, a lawsuit with the court. They also can help assess whether you qualify as a non-exempt employee and should receive overtime payments in accordance with the FLSA and the laws of your particular state.
Also, if you have to appear in court, your lawyer will be able to represent you during any hearings or case-related meetings.