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Wage Theft and ‘Unapproved’ Overtime: Is Your Employer Stealing From You?


Once upon a time, there was a hardworking employee named Jane Doe. Jane’s employer had given her so much work, Jane had to work overtime to complete all her tasks. Jane diligently completed her work, putting in the required overtime hours to do so. Then, Jane requested overtime pay from her employer. She assumed that there would be no problem getting paid. But, to Jane’s surprise, her employer refused to pay overtime, claiming that without prior approval, they did not have to pay Jane for the extra hours.

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(Photo Credit: torbakhopper/Flickr)

Lucky for Jane, her employer was living in a fairy tale. In the real world, an employer cannot infringe on an employee’s right to overtime pay by requiring the employee to get prior approval or forfeit pay.

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Covered Employees Do Not Need Prior Approval for Overtime Pay

Although many states have their own laws, the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) is a federal law that requires employers to pay covered workers for hours worked in excess of 40 hours in a week. Not every employee has a right to such overtime pay. If you are an executive, administrative, professional, or outside sales employee, then you almost certainly do not qualify for overtime pay.

In addition to exempted employees, there is also exempted time. FLSA does not require overtime pay for work performed on weekends and holidays. But, outside of these exemptions, employees generally do have the right to overtime pay and employers may not infringe on that right by requiring prior approval.

Many employers, like Jane’s, deny overtime pay, claiming that they do not have to pay for “unapproved” work. Employers even deny pay for “unapproved” overtime that the employers have required their employers to perform. Many employees, unfortunately, do not realize that their employers cannot deny pay for this reason.

In truth, work performed in excess of 40 hours in a workweek still constitutes overtime work, even if the employee has not secured approval for overtime pay. And when an employee works over 40 hours in a workweek, the law requires employers to compensate employees accordingly.

An employer cannot get the benefit of overtime work without paying for it. The only way an employer can lawfully deny an employee overtime pay on the basis of approval is if the employer forbid the employee from performing the work, but the employee did so anyway.

Tell Us What You Think

Do you know someone whose employer denied him or her overtime pay on the basis that the employee did not get prior approval? We want to hear from you! Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.

Daniel Kalish
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