Most people are familiar with basic overtime laws – if you work more than 40 hours in one work week, you are entitled to pay of time-and-a-half for all hours exceeding 40. People who work in management, professional, and other fields may be exempt from overtime requirements. Some employers will try to classify employees as exempt from overtime pay who are entitled to it, however. Employers may also argue that time preparing for work should not be included in overtime calculations. There are many situations where employees may be entitled to seek overtime pay:
• Employee is incorrectly categorized as exempt from overtime pay. One example from the legal field is paralegals. Many law firms argued that they have the type of specialized training and duties that make them exempt from overtime pay. The Department of Labor has issued opinions that paralegals and legal assistants are not exempt from overtime pay, however. Incorrect classification is a common occurrence in other industries as well, such as mortgage and banking.
• Employee did not have permission to work overtime. Generally, your employer cannot refuse to pay you overtime just because you did not have advance permission to complete the work.
• Employee is salaried. Just because you are paid a salary rather than on an hourly basis, that does not mean you are exempt from overtime. It depends on the details of your work based on specific guidelines set by statute.
• Employee is misclassified as an independent contractor. A true independent contractor is probably not entitled to overtime pay. Sometimes employers will call employees independent contractors to avoid overtime and other expenses, but the relationship is really one of employer/employee.
• Employee is reclassified as non-exempt. If your employer changes your classification from exempt to non-exempt, you may be entitled to recover up to two years of overtime pay if you were misclassified as exempt.
• Employee falls below the minimum salary. If you earn less than $455 per week, you are automatically entitled to overtime protection.
• Employee is required to work off the clock. Often employees have to set up before beginning work or clean up after work. You are generally entitled to credit for that time as working time.
Many aspects of overtime laws and employee rights are governed by the Fair Labor Standards Act.
I can help you evaluate whether you have a claim for overtime wages. Keep in mind that there are strict time limits for filing a claim for overtime wages.