Overtime pay reimburses workers for long hours and prevents companies from working their staff ragged. The federal government has long required that nonexempt workers receive 150% of their typical hourly wage when they have put in more than 40 hours during a specific workweek.
Some companies will do just about anything to avoid paying overtime wages. Their practices may violate the rights of their workers.
How do companies try to avoid overtime pay?
They may have a company-wide policy that requires managerial approval or even authorization from the corporate offices for someone to put in overtime. They might use a time-clock system that prevents people from clocking in early and notifies managers if someone clocks out later than they should.
They could even have a policy that they never schedule their workers for more than 38 hours to avoid any possible overtime situation. However, a worker could still wind up putting in more than 40 hours if someone calls in sick or if there are unexpected demands that force them to extend their last day of work in a week or come in on their usual day off. Can the business refuse to pay overtime wages if a worker has put in more than 40 hours?
Company policy does not supersede federal employment laws
The Fair Labor Standards Act, the federal law that establishes the right to overtime pay, is explicit. Employees don’t just have to pay for the scheduled hours that they plan for their employees but all hours that an employee works, even if the company has a policy against allowing overtime.
Provided that the worker is not exempt from overtime pay requirements, the company must provide at least 150% of their standard hourly wage after a worker puts in 40 hours in a particular workweek.
Can a company penalize you for unauthorized overtime?
If the company does have a written policy regarding overtime, they may be able to write you up or discipline you in a non-financial manner for the unauthorized overtime. However, if a supervisor or manager asked you to continue working, they should be the ones who face discipline, not the employee who acquiesced to their request.
Understanding your right to overtime wages can help you fight back if your employer unfairly denies you the pay you have earned.