On its face, overtime seems like it’s a fairly simple subject. In most jobs, if you work more than 40 hours in a given work week, you get paid at least time and a half for all of the hours worked over the basic 40-hour work week. But in this era of what appears to be rampant wage theft, there is a little bit more to the story than that. Here are three things you may not have known about overtime pay and your right to it.
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1. Your Overtime Rights Vary Depending on Your Job
The federal law that gives you the right to overtime pay is called the Fair Labor Standards Act, or FLSA. This is the law that requires that most employees be paid at least the minimum wage, and that they be paid time and a half for all hours over 40 hours worked in a week. But, there are exceptions. For example, under Section 13(a)(1) of the Act, people in executive, administrative, or professional positions are not covered by these requirements. This could be a lawyer, a doctor, an insurance claims adjustor, or people who work in a wide variety of other fields.
People who are involved in outside sales positions and certain computer employees also lack these protections. Certain creative professionals are also not protected by the law, and under certain circumstances that can even include people like newspaper reporters. Under the FLSA, workers fall into one of two categories: exempt workers, who do not have these rights to overtime and certain wages, and non-exempt employees, who do have those rights.
2. Just Because You Are a Salaried Employee, Does Not Mean You Do Not Get Overtime
One common misunderstanding of overtime rules is a belief that if you are a salaried employee (that is, one who received a set payment every pay period regardless of hours worked, as opposed to an employee paid by the hour) then your employer can make you work endless hours without paying overtime. That is not the case. Whether you are entitled to overtime is a decision based on your income and job responsibilities, not one based on how your employer decides to do his or her payroll. If you make more than $24,000 and spend any of your work time supervising other employees, you may be out of luck for overtime right now. But the current administration is taking steps to increase the number of workers entitled to overtime pay. According to a report by The New York Times, President Obama has instructed the Labor Secretary to come up with a plan that would increase the number of workers eligible for overtime pay.
3. Even If Your Overtime Was Not “Authorized,” That Does Not Mean Your Employer Does Not Have to Pay it
A very common type of wage theft involves an employer refusing to pay you the overtime you are entitled to because he or she did not specifically give you permission to work overtime. The most abhorrent example of this is where the employer is the one who told you to work the extra hours, but then claims you are not entitled to extra compensation because it was somehow your responsibility to point out that working extra hours would force you to go over the 40-hour mark.
This wage theft is likely illegal. If you are a non-exempt employee, and you work over 40 hours in a workweek, you are entitled to time and a half for the hours over 40 hours. They have to pay you for it. Now, that being said, if your employer has a policy that says that you cannot work overtime without prior approval, your employer can take other disciplinary action against you for violating that policy. So it’s likely not in your best interest to intentionally violate such a policy. But you cannot be denied the pay to which you are entitled just because of that policy.
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