The 411 on Overtime Pay

            In the past two years, employees have recovered an estimated $1.2 billion from filing claims against their employers for unpaid wages.  Claims for overtime pay are near the top of that list.  But many employees – and employers, too – are confused about the overtime laws.  Who gets overtime pay, and how much are they supposed to get?  Here’s the 411 on this hot topic.

            Most employees who work more than 40 hours in a work week must be paid time-and-a-half for all hours above 40.  So, an employee making $10 an hour who works 50 hours in a work week must be paid $550 ($10 per hour x 40 hours = $400, plus $15 per hour x 10 hours = $150).  Many employers don’t realize how few exceptions there are to this rule.

            In most cases, employers only are allowed to avoid paying overtime to employees who both: (1) are paid a regular salary, not an hourly wage; AND (2) are either high level administrative employees or managers who supervise at least 2 full-time people.  Very few employees usually meet these requirements – which means that most employees are supposed to be paid for their overtime.  Moreover, the employer is required to keep track of employees’ time worked and make sure they get paid time-and-a-half for their overtime hours.

            What are the most common ways that employers violate the overtime laws?  Many employers tell employees they have to write down “8 hours” every day, regardless of how many hours they worked.  Other employers say they don’t pay for overtime but give “comp time” instead.  Others say that they don’t have to pay overtime to any employee who gets a salary, even if they are not high-level administrators or managers.  These all are violations of the overtime laws. 

            For most employees, overtime is a legally-protected right.  Be vigilant about enforcing it.

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