Can a Company Make Overtime Mandatory?

Can a Company Make Overtime Mandatory?

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Can a Company Make Overtime Mandatory?

The simple answer to this question is yes. According to the Fair Labor Standards Act, your employer can also fire you if you refuse to work overtime. The FLSA doesn't limit how many hours a day or week you should work. Instead, it requires employers to pay you when you work overtime, usually more than 40 hours in a workweek. 

In addition, in most states, your employer doesn't have to pay you overtime when you work more than eight hours a day. The FLSA requires them to pay you overtime only when working more than 40 hours a week. However, in states like California, Nevada, and Alaska, employers must pay their employees overtime when they work more than eight hours a day. The US Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico also require employers to pay overtime when employees work more than eight hours a day. 

Unfortunately, your employer doesn't have to pay you overtime in Alaska if the company has less than four employees.

The truth is, employment laws are complex. Even worse, although employers must follow federal employment guidelines, each state also comes with a unique set of rules.

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  • Can a Worker Refuse to Work Overtime?

    In most cases, workers cannot refuse to work mandatory overtime simply because they won't want to. The employer can decide to fire such workers without facing legal action. 

    However, this doesn't necessarily mean that your employer can do whatever they want just because they have the power to hire and fire you. There are some exceptions to the overtime rule, as explained below. 

  • When Can You Refuse to Work Mandatory Overtime?

    You can refuse to work mandatory overtime if:

    The Overtime Breaches a Contract

    Your employer cannot force you to work overtime if your contract says otherwise. Contracts are legally enforceable documents. If you believe that your employer wants you to work against the terms of your employment agreement, you might have a case against them. 

    Working Overtime Poses a Health or Safety Hazard

    Your employer cannot force you to work under unsafe conditions. For you to work, your employer must ensure that your working conditions meet the safety standards set by the federal and state governments. If that's not the case, you can simply refuse to work. And if they take any adverse action against you, you may be able to pursue legal action against them. 

    Not Paid for Working Overtime

    As mentioned earlier, federal laws require employers to pay their employees time and a half when they work more than 40 hours a week. If your employer doesn't pay for the extra hours worked, you can refuse to work, and they cannot take legal action against you. 

    However, it's also important to note that overtime laws and other workplace protections may not apply to some workers. These workers are usually referred to as "exempt employees." Exempt workers won't be paid overtime if they work more than eight hours a day or 40 hours a week.

    Who Is an Exempt Employee?

    An exempt employee is an employee who doesn't receive overtime pay or qualify for minimum wage. Exempt employees are usually paid salaries instead of by the hour. Additionally, most exempt employees hold executive positions within the company. 

    The FLSA considers the following job categories as exempt:

    • Professional 
    • Administrative 
    • Executive
    • Computer-related
    • Outside sales

    As of January 2022, exempt employees should earn a minimum of $684 a week or at least $35,568 annually. However, the exact requirements for exempt employees vary from state to state. For example, employees who earn twice the minimum wage in California may be considered exempt.  

    Other types of workers who may be considered exempt include:

    • motion picture theater employees;
    • farmworkers;
    • taxi drivers;
    • railroad workers;
    • motor carrier workers; and
    • commissioned sales employees. 

    Unfortunately, some rogue employers take advantage of unsuspecting employees to manipulate the overtime rule. For example, some may "promote" their employees to higher positions without a significant salary increase and then treat them as exempt employees when they're not. 

    Some employers may even agree to pay their workers weekly or monthly, making it seem like they are exempt employees. Remember, one of the most common characteristics of exempt employees is that they usually earn a fixed salary rather than by the hour.

    For this reason, some rogue employers may decide to pay certain employees a fixed salary to make it seem like they're exempt. As a result, they'll have such employees work overtime and not pay for the extra hours worked because they're considered "exempt." Such practices are a violation of FLSA laws. If that's what you or your loved one is going through, then you might have a case against the employer. 

    You Have a Protected Family Emergency

    You may refuse to work overtime if you have a family emergency protected by the Family and Medical League Act. For example, according to FMLA, your employer cannot force you to work if your spouse, parent, or child has a serious health problem. Also, they cannot force you to work when they know you have a serious health condition. 

  • What Are "Serious Medical Conditions" Under FMLA Laws?

    Some of the most common serious health conditions protected by FMLA laws include:

    • Conditions that require overnight stay in a hospital or any other healthcare facility
    • Chronic conditions that cause occasional periods of incapacitation to you or your family members and require treatment by a healthcare provider at least two times a year.
    • Conditions that incapacitate you or your family member for more than three consecutive days require ongoing medical attention, multiple medical appointments, or follow-up care.
    • Pregnancy, including prenatal medical appointments, or incapacity due to medically required bed rest, or morning sickness.
  • When to File a Complaint Against Your Employer

    As discussed earlier, some rogue employers manipulate overtime laws to have their employees work more than they should. In that case, you can seek legal action against the rogue employer. Here are some examples of situations that might trigger a complaint against the employer. 

    Unreasonable Workload

    Because employers know that they can make overtime mandatory, some abuse this privilege by overworking their employees. 

    Here's an example of such a situation.

    Jane works at a busy restaurant as a waitress. Her employer then updates her job responsibilities, effectively requiring Jane to help do the restaurant's dishes and clean all floors every shift. Jane's employer also requires her to conduct all accounting tasks at the restaurant and prepare reports at the end of every shift. 

    Instead of working 40 hours a week, Jane's employer now orders her to work at least 60 hours a week. This could be a case of employee manipulation by the employee.

    In reality, Jane plays the role of a waitress, accountant, bookkeeper, and cleaner at the restaurant, even though it would make more sense for her employer to hire extra employees to share these roles with Jane. In that case, Jane might have a valid case against her employer. 

    Denied Overtime Pay

    It's illegal for your employer to deny you overtime pay when you've worked more than 40 hours a week or eight hours a day (in some states). But believe it or not, some rogue employers know how to manipulate the system, eventually denying eligible employees overtime pay. 

    Common Tactics Employers Use to Avoid Paying Overtime

    Here are some examples of tactics employers use to avoid paying overtime. 

    Your employer cannot average your workweek. Unfortunately, this is one tactic many employers use to avoid paying unsuspecting employees their overtime pay. 

    Some employees use this tactic, especially against employees who get paid every two weeks. Here's what they do. 

    Suppose John works 50 hours a week on the first work week. In that case, a rogue employer will have him work 30 hours the next week. As a result, the employer will claim that John worked a combined total of 80 hours within those two weeks. Such an employer will then pay John the regular hourly wage, multiplied by 80 hours. 

    But that's not right. Each workweek stands alone when calculating overtime.

    This means that John worked 10 hours as overtime on the first work week and should be paid for those extra hours. 

    Requiring Employees to Work Off the Clock

    Many employers use this tactic to avoid paying their employees overtime. Like many other tactics dishonest employers use, some employees don't realize that they have a right to refuse to work off the clock.

    Sometimes, it may be difficult for employees to realize that their employers are actually taking advantage of them by asking them to work off the clock. This is because such employers will request their employees to do "simple favors" such as:

    • arriving early for their shift to test the telephone without clocking in;
    • arriving early to clean a particular workspace without clocking in; or
    • dropping off outgoing mail to a particular postal office after clocking out. 

    Misclassifying Employees as Independent Contractors

    You don't have to follow most federal and state employment laws when you're an independent contractor. This is why it's important to understand such laws because some rogue employers classify their employees as independent contractors to avoid paying overtime and other employee benefits. So if a client claims you're an independent contractor but treats you as an employee, you might have a case against them. 

  • Can You Sue Your Employer for Overtime Wage Violation?

    Yes, you can take legal action against your employer if you suspect they've violated your employment rights. Whether they forced you to work overtime despite having a protected family emergency or manipulated your paycheck to avoid paying extra, you can hold them accountable for their actions.

  • How an Employment Attorney Can Help 

    As you've learned, employment laws are complex. You'll have to be familiar with federal, state, and employer-specific policies to determine whether your employer violated your rights.

    This is one area of law employment lawyers can help you with. Because employment lawyers are familiar with various employment laws, they can review your case and offer the best legal advice.

    Additionally, employment violation cases require different paperwork. You may not be familiar with the filing process, and that's where an employment lawyer comes in. You can bank on their experience to help you file the correct paperwork needed to initiate legal action against your employer. 

    The primary goal of taking legal action against your employer is to seek compensation for your damages. When an employer commits employment violations, you may be eligible for compensation for:

    • loss of wages;
    • pain and suffering;
    • loss of enjoyment in life;
    • emotional distress, etc. 

    The exact damages you may be able to recover vary from case to case. Your attorney will review your case and determine what you may be entitled to as compensation. 

    When you take legal action against your employer, there's always a possibility that they'll retaliate against you. Although it's illegal for an employer to retaliate against their employees for taking legal action against them, some rogue employers don't respect such rules. Instead, they may use various tactics to frustrate you or limit your capability to hold them accountable for their actions.

    If you believe that your employer has retaliated against you for seeking legal action against them, your employment lawyer should know about this. Some employers might even accuse you of misconduct as an excuse to retaliate. 

  • Contact an Employment Lawyer From Morgan & Morgan

    A Morgan & Morgan employment lawyer can help hold your employer or any other entity accountable for their actions against you. All you have to do is give us a call at 877-830-2711 to speak with an expert in this area of law. You can even fill out our free consultation form, and one of our legal representatives will contact you as soon as possible to discuss your case further. 

    Even though your employer can make overtime mandatory, employment law still protects you from certain actions in the workplace. So don't suffer in silence. You deserve compensation for your hard work, and that's why Morgan & Morgan employment lawyers are here to help. 

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