Overtime laws protect workers across the country and generally apply once a worker exceeds 40 hours a week. However, the federal government’s rules (as provided in the Fair Labor Standards Act, or FLSA) do not make a distinction between part-time and full-time employees. The status of the worker doesn’t change the basic rule that time and a half must be paid for overtime work. If you work more than 40 hours per week and aren’t being paid overtime, regardless of how your employer classifies you, it’s time to explore your legal right to seek back pay. Contact The Lore Law Firm today.
When Does An Employer Have to Pay Overtime?
Overtime is earned when an employee exceeds 40 work hours during a given week. Those hours have to be paid at a rate of 1.5 times the employee’s regular hourly rate, which is why overtime is also called time and a half. If an employer fails to pay overtime, the worker could be entitled to not only the back wages but also liquidated damages in the same amount (double damages).
There are some exceptions (known as exemptions) under the FLSA. However, most hourly workers will be entitled to overtime. Also, whenever an employer claims an exemption, the burden is on that company to prove it meets the FLSA’s strict requirements.
What Is Considered Part-Time and Full-Time Work?
There is no universal definition of part- or full-time work. In general, most jobs in which you work fewer than 30 hours in a week are considered part-time. Some states define part-time employment as simply that which is less than 40 hours per week. But the federal government does not define either term, and it makes no difference with respect to the basic requirements of overtime law. If an employee works over 40 hours in a work week, he or she is entitled to time and a half, regardless of whether the employer considers the individual to be part- or full-time.
Common Overtime Disputes Involving Part-Time Workers
In light of the above standards and rules, these are some of the most common overtime issues that arise in the context of part-time work:
- State law offers stronger protections.
- There are a handful of states, such as California, that require overtime pay if the employee works over 8 hours in a single day. A part-time employee could potentially meet this standard and thereby be entitled to overtime. For example, an employee may work three 10-hour days in a row. Though totaling only 30 hours for the week – well below what is usually considered to be full-time – that worker would have earned 6 hours of overtime.
- Note that the worker would only be entitled to overtime under state law (or local law, if applicable). The FLSA does not require overtime unless and until a non-exempt worker exceeds 40 hours in a week. However, our nationwide network of attorneys can assist you if you work in a state that requires overtime where the federal government does not.
- Averaging hours across more than one week.
- Remember, under the FLSA, every work week stands alone. Even if an employee normally works under 40 hours in a week (and is therefore part-time), that worker may occasionally exceed 40 hours. An employer cannot average hours across two or more weeks and then claim no obligation to pay overtime.
- Here’s an example. In one week, an employee works 30 hours (part-time work). In another, the employee works 50 hours. In the latter week, the employee is entitled to 10 hours of overtime. But a dishonest employer may average the hours (80 over the course of two weeks, averaging out to 40 per week) and pay only regular wages. This is not allowed under the FLSA.
- Misclassification as an independent contractor.
- A part-time worker may be considered an independent contractor by the business that hires him or her. However, simply working fewer than 40 hours is not the proper basis for whether someone is an independent contractor versus an employee. As a general rule, the more control the company exercises over the worker, the more likely that person is an employee.
- If you are improperly classified as an independent contractor (1099 worker), when you are actually a part-time employee, your employer may cheat you out of overtime by demanding more than 40 hours of work in a week but paying only regular hourly wages. Our firm routinely represents workers who are incorrectly treated as contractors instead of employees.
- Improperly claiming an exemption.
- Employers can make a mistake by claiming their employees – both full- and part-time – are exempt under federal or state overtime rules. Don’t forget that exemptions are strictly defined, with the ultimate burden on the employer to justify them. If you have a question about whether you actually meet an exemption to the overtime laws, it’s important that you check with an experienced attorney.
- Miscalculation of overtime.
- Part-time employees sometimes work irregular hours from one week to the next. Although employers are required to keep accurate records of their employees’ hours, this doesn’t always happen. Be sure to check your pay stubs and other records to ensure that you are being fairly credited for all hours you work. Also, make sure you are being compensated at 1.5 times your regular hourly rate for hours you work over 40 in a week.
The Lore Law Firm Fights for the Overtime Rights of Workers
Part-time hours can certainly complicate overtime. Regardless, all employers are required to abide by applicable federal and state wage and hour laws. If you’re a part-time employee with questions about your right to time and a half pay, fill out The Lore Law Firm’s free and confidential client intake form.