What Is the Law on Overtime Pay?

What Is the Law on Overtime Pay?

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What Is the Law on Overtime Pay?

Before 1938, American employers had the legal power to force workers to put in more than 40 hours of work each week, with no additional pay for working overtime. Employers also did not have to pay a minimum wage, which meant workers had no legal way to earn more than a paltry few cents an hour. With the organized labor movement beginning to have a considerable impact on American politics, the United States Congress passed a groundbreaking law in 1938 that improved compensation for workers.

One of the key elements of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) of 1938 concerns the establishment of overtime pay for qualified American workers. Knowing what the law on overtime pay is can be important to ensure workers receive additional compensation for working more than 40 hours per week. After the passage of the FLSA, several states expanded the protections granted for workers, such as requiring employers to pay overtime after an employee works eight hours in one 24-hour period. A majority of states have established a minimum wage that is higher than what the federal government has established.

If your employer has failed to pay what you deserve for working overtime, you should contact one of the experienced overtime attorneys at Morgan & Morgan. Working with an employment lawyer ensures you file a claim against your employer before the deadline established by state or federal laws. A lawyer helps you organize the evidence you need to file a persuasive claim that seeks back pay for unpaid overtime. If your employer intentionally withheld overtime pay, you might have a strong enough case to file a civil lawsuit that seeks monetary damages.

Schedule a free case evaluation with one of the highly-rated overtime attorneys at Morgan & Morgan.

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Get answers to commonly asked questions about our legal services and learn how we may assist you with your case.

  • What Is the Fair Labor Standards Act?

    To know the answer to the question, “What is the law on overtime pay?”—you should refer to the legal foundation for overtime statutes called the Fair Labor Standards Act. Every state overtime law includes the most important clauses written into the FLSA. The FLSA represents a federal law that ensures American workers receive a minimum wage, overtime pay, and the right to take legal action against an employer that violates the employment law. Under federal overtime law, most employees that work more than 40 hours in one workweek qualify to receive pay that is one and a half times their typical wage.

    Responsible for enforcing the FLSA, the United State Department of Labor (DOL) defines one workweek to consist of a “fixed and recurring period of 168 hours. For example, if a workweek starts at 12:00 am on Monday morning, the workweek ends 168 consecutive hours later on Sunday at 11:59 pm. The establishment of 168 consecutive hours allows employers to have flexibility when it comes to defining a workweek. A workweek that runs from Friday to Thursday is as legally valid as a workweek that runs from Monday to Sunday.

    Federal overtime laws do not restrict the number of hours an employee 16 years old or older can work during each workweek, as long as employers follow the overtime guidelines created by the FLSA. If an employer does not compensate a worker at an overtime rate that is 1.5 times higher than the worker’s normal pay, the employer has violated the overtime provision written into the historically significant federal employment law.

  • What Are the Penalties for Violating the FLSA?

    Employers face two significant legal consequences for violating the FLSA. First, a worker has the right to file a civil lawsuit to recover back pay and other types of monetary damages. Filing a lawsuit against an employer for not paying overtime can quickly generate costly legal fees, as well as negative publicity for an employer. The outcome of a civil lawsuit can include an order to compensate a worker for back pay and monetary damages that equal the value of back pay.

    The federal government has the legal power to penalize an employer that violated the overtime provision of the FLSA. As a part of the DOL, the Wage and Hour Division can issue a fine of up to $10,000 for every FLSA overtime violation. If the DOL discovers an employer has repeatedly defied the legal standards written into the FLSA, the federal government agency has the legal power to seek criminal charges against a non-compliant employer.

  • What Does Exempt and Nonexempt Employees Mean?

    Not every employee receives the legal protections granted by the FLSA. The landmark worker’s rights law has created two classes of workers: Exempt and nonexempt. Exempt workers do not qualify for overtime. Amended more than 20 times since 1938, the FLSA defines the guidelines that define the two classes of employees based on the type of job.


    Exempt executive employees earn a weekly salary of at least $684, as well as manage a company or a department of a company. Federal overtime law defines an executive as an employee that manages at least two full-time workers, with the authority to hire or terminate employees.


    Administrative employees receive a salary or a weekly fee of at least $684. The primary job function of an administrator involves performing office work or another type of work that supports management in running the daily operations of a company. An administrator also has the authority to make independent decisions that affect a company’s operation.


    With the same minimum salary set at $684 per week, the designation of a professional includes an employee who focuses on a company’s performance that requires the “consistent exercise of discretion and judgment. The type of work performed by a professional must involve having advanced knowledge to make decisions based on intellectual skills.


    Workers that specialize in the computer field must receive a minimum salary of $684 a week or $27.63 per hour. The primary job function of a computer specialist must include the application of computer systems or the design and development of computer programs.

    Outside Sales

    Sales representatives receive an exemption on overtime if the main job function is completing sales or acquiring orders for services. This type of exempt employee must consistently work most of the time away from an employer’s workplace. 
    According to a new rule ordered by the DOL in 2020, every employee that makes less than $35,568 a year must receive overtime pay, regardless of exempt or non-exempt status.

  • How Do I Report Wage and Hour Violations?

    One of the most important reasons to learn the answer to the question, “What is the law on overtime pay?” is to know how to report a violation of overtime law. If your employer fails to meet the state or federal standard for overtime compensation, you should hire one of the state-licensed employment law attorneys from Morgan & Morgan to help you report a wage and hour violation

    You file a complaint at one of the offices managed by the Wage and Hour Division (WHD) of the DOL. With the help of your overtime lawyer, you send the WHD your name and contact information that includes an email address. You send the name of your employer, contact information, and the type of your employer’s business. The WHD needs to know your job title and a detailed job description. For information regarding compensation, you submit documentation that shows how much you earn, the frequency of compensation, and how you receive your paychecks.

    The most important element of a wage and hour complaint concerns the violations committed by your employer. You have to describe every overtime violation and the dates when the overtime violations occurred. After you submit all of the information required by the WHD, you wait for the WHD to conduct a thorough investigation into your complaint. Working with an attorney can help you monitor the progress of the investigation conducted by the WHD. Your name remains confidential throughout the complaint process.

  • What Is the Statute of Limitations for Filing an Overtime Complaint?

    You have a limited amount of time to file an overtime complaint to the WHD. According to federal law, the statute of limitations for filing a wage and hour complaint is two years. However, the deadline for filing an overtime complaint extends one year to three years if your employer committed one or more intentional violations of the FLSA. The WHD recommends employees file an overtime complaint within 18 months after an employer committed a wage and hour violation. Reporting an overtime violation as quickly as possible allows you to recover your financial losses sooner. At times, the WHD encounters a backlog of wage and hour complaints that slows down the review process.

  • What Factors Should I Consider for an Overtime Attorney?

    Knowing the law on overtime pay becomes much easier when you hire an employment lawyer. Your legal counsel educates you not only about the protections granted by the FLSA but also about the legal protections granted by state employment laws.

    Proven Record of Success

    Employers that face allegations of violating the FLSA typically receive legal support from a team of experienced lawyers. This means you should counteract the legal strength of your employer by hiring legal counsel that has a proven record of success in getting clients the compensation they deserve. Working with an inexperienced attorney just to save money can end with you getting no money at all.

    Specializes in State and Federal Wage and Hour Laws

    Employment covers a wide variety of practices. Although you should hire a state-licensed employment attorney, you should search for legal representation that specializes in handling wage and hour cases. The key is for your lawyer to possess a comprehensive knowledge of the overtime laws enacted in the state where you live.

    Responsive Communicator

    Expect the overtime lawyer that you hire to be involved in several cases at one time. However, this does not mean your legal counsel should ignore your emails, phone calls, and text messages. You want to work with an overtime lawyer who returns your communications within 24 hours, preferably fewer hours than that if you have filed a wage and hour complaint with the WHD.

  • Get to Know What is the Law on Overtime Pay

    You should not wait for your employer to commit a second violation of the FLSA. Take action after the first violation by contacting one of the overtime attorneys at Morgan & Morgan. We will help you gather and organize evidence, as well as provide you the answer to the question, “What is the law on overtime pay?”

    Schedule a free case evaluation today to get the ball rolling on your overtime complaint.

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