Don’t be a Victim of Overtime Violation…Know the Law

The Fair Labor Standards Act is the overtime and minimum wage law that regulates how employees must be paid.  Under the FLSA, non-exempt employees must be paid at least minimum wage for all hours worked and time and a half their regular rate after 40 hours of work per week.

Employees often ask if they can be required to work mandatory overtime.  In other words, can they be forced to work over 40 hours per week or can they refuse to do this.  Unfortunately, the federal labor laws do not limit work hours (or days). Federal law regulates overtime pay if you are required to work over 40 hours, but it does not give employees the right to refuse to work overtime.  Therefore, the answer is “Yes, your employer can require that you work over 40 hours per week” and “No, the law does not give you the legal right to refuse to work more than 40 hours per week.” If you refuse to work the schedule your employer gives you, you can be fired and would not have any legal recourse against your employer for the termination.

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Some states do regulate work hours for workers in certain industries.  For example, some states limit how many overtime hours a nurse can be required to work.  In addition, the federal Department of Transportation regulates the maximum number of hours most truck drivers can work.  However, if you are not in one of the few regulated industries, your employer can require that you work mandatory overtime and you must comply with the schedule you are given or risk termination.

Often employees feel they should be able to refuse to work overtime if their employer is not paying them overtime pay or if the employee feels their overtime pay is incorrect.  However, this is not the case.  If your employer is making you work over 40 hours per week and is not paying you the legally required overtime pay, you can pursue an overtime claim against your employer; but the law does not protect you from being fired if you refuse to work the overtime hours.

Can Overtime Be Mandatory?

Yes.  According to the FLSA your employer can require you to work overtime and can fire you if you refuse.

Some states have laws requiring that employees get at least one day off per week (day of rest laws) or designate certain days as non-workdays, but many states do not.  If you do not live in one of the few states that have these laws, your employer is free to schedule you as they see fit.

While the labor laws do not typically limit work hours, they do regulate overtime pay.  Unless your position falls under one of the overtime exemptions in the law, you should be getting time and a half pay after 40 hours.

Are You Owed Mandatory Overtime Pay?

If you are being required to work mandatory overtime, it is important to make sure you are being paid properly for your work.

The labor laws can be complicated and confusing.  As mentioned, there are overtime exemptions under the law that depend on job duties and different pay structures require different overtime calculations.  In addition, overtime claims are subject to strict time limitations.

For all of these reasons, it is important to have your situation evaluated if you are not being paid time and a half for overtime, or even if you’re just not sure if your overtime pay is correct. We offer a free, confidential review – just complete our online Case Evaluation Form.

Michael Lore is the founder of The Lore Law Firm. For over 25 years, his law practice and experience extend from representing individuals in all aspects of labor & employment law, with a concentration in class and collective actions seeking to recover unpaid back overtime wages, to matters involving executive severance negotiations, non-compete provisions and serious personal injury (work and non-work related). He has handled matters both in the state and federal courts nationwide as well as via related administrative agencies. If you have any questions about this article, you can contact Michael by using our chat functionality.