Does my Boss Owe Me for Overtime or “Voluntary” Work?

It is common for employers to ask or require their employees to work overtime. But if you are an employee who is often placed in that position, make sure your boss is paying you properly. If your employer is forcing you to work overtime hours without paying time-and-a-half for the extra hours that you work, it might be illegal. Unless your job falls under one of the overtime exemptions recognized under federal and state law, that employer’s practice might be illegal.

Under federal law, under both the Fair Labor Standards Act, 29 U.S.C. §201 et seq. (“FLSA”), covered employees must be paid at least the minimum wage for all hours that they work, and overtime wages for hours that they work over forty (40). The general rule is that for workers who do not fall into one of the exemptions in the FLSA, or nonexempt employees working for private, for-profit employers must be paid at least the minimum wage for all hours worked and cannot have hours wherein they are working but unpaid. This means that if you fall into this category of workers whose jobs are not exempt from overtime pay requirements, and you are being forced to work either unpaid hours or more than 40 hours in a week, you may be owed unpaid overtime wages.

Overtime pay generally means that you are being paid time-and-a-half for your hours. So, for example, if you make $10 per hour and work over 40 hours, you should be making $15 per hour for all of your overtime hours. If your employer is not paying you for those overtime hours, or if your employer is only paying you “straight time” (your regular rate) for those overtime hours, it might be an FLSA violation.

Under the FLSA, if your employer owes you back wages for overtime, then the FLSA allows you to not only recover the unpaid wages you are owed but also liquidated damages. Liquidated damages are damages equal to the amount you are owed. So, for example, if your employer owes you $1,000, with liquidated damages, you would be awarded $2,000 in damages. The employer can avoid paying you liquidated damages if they can prove that they acted in good faith when they failed to properly pay you.

Some jobs are not entitled to overtime pay protections. There are certain jobs are subject to overtime pay exemptions. The department of labor provides helpful fact sheets on the FLSA, including a list of exemptions.

If you are concerned that you have not been receiving overtime pay, you should contact an employment law attorney to discuss the matter further.


DISCLAIMER: The above is not and should not be interpreted as legal advice. It is for informational purposes only. You should consult an attorney for legal advice. If you feel that this post may apply to you, click here to schedule an appointment with our firm.