If you are an hourly employee, overtime is an important part of your income. Your employer is legally obligated to provide you with overtime pay if you meet the requirements.
The Fair Labor Standards Act requires overtime to be paid at a rate of one and one-half times an employee’s regular rate of pay after 40 hours of work in a workweek. Additionally, some states have their own overtime laws. This is why it is incredibly important to know when you are and are not entitled to overtime pay.
Make Sure You Are Not Exempt
The first thing you need to do is identify if you are or are not an eligible employee. For the most part, if you are paid on an hourly basis you are eligible. Common positions include associates at retail stores, restaurants, fast food establishments, and grocery stores.
Exempt employees are typically paid on a salary basis. However, some salaried employees can still qualify if they do not have managerial duties and earn a rate less than $455 per week.
Understand What Qualifies as Overtime - Track Your Time
The most important thing you can do as an hourly paid employee is track your time. Sometimes managers or human resources will incorrectly mark your time. Chances are there was not malicious intent either. Mistakes happen and it always (and literally) pays off to know the hours you’ve worked.
So what hours should you track and what can qualify for overtime? You should track every hour you work, regardless of what day or when it occurred. However, the general rule of thumb is that overtime is paid for any hours worked in a workweek that exceed 40 hours. So if you have worked 42 hours in a single workweek, two hours should be paid at an overtime rate.
Some common misconceptions are that weekends, nights, and holidays accrue pay at a different rate. Unfortunately this is false. Your weekend pay counts towards your weekly total but does not earn you any higher of a pay rate. The same holds true for working late night shifts. Holiday pay can be different. While the law does not entitle you to an increase in pay rate, often times employers pay out higher for holidays. So if you are working this Thanksgiving, you may earn time and a half if your employer allows it.
Another misconception is working over eight hours in one day. The standard full-time workweek is forty hours, or eights hours a day. This makes some people believe that if they put in over eight hours in a day, they get an overtime pay rate. However, that will only apply if the amount of hours for the week exceed forty. If you work nine hours on Monday and seven hours on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday; you are not entitled to overtime pay for the ninth hour on Monday.
Training time is another area that is often unclear. Training required by the employer or by law is counted towards your work time. Therefore it can go towards your weekly total hours. However, training not required by your employer or by law does not count towards your total weekly hours.
Notify Your Employer
If you have been tracking the time you work, and you should be, you can compare your hours next to what your paycheck provides you with. Any discrepancies should be brought to your manager or human resources.
If you have worked for 42 hours in the workweek and receive your regular pay rate for all 42 hours, then you have a scenario where you need to bring it to the attention of your superiors. You should earn time and a half for those extra two hours.
Your employer has to power to correct the discrepancy if it is brought to their attention. If they refuse to pay the overtime rate, you need to take further action.
Create and Send a Demand Letter
A demand letter is a way to request unpaid overtime pay that not only carries sincerity with it but also provides you with proof of the request. Prior to sending the letter to your employer, make sure you have a signed copy for yourself.
The demand letter serves as a very effective way to claiming your unpaid overtime without having to file a claim with the Labor Commissioner or hiring a lawyer. This letter also protects your from retaliation from your employer. Employer’s cannot fire or take action against you for requesting your wages.
As mentioned earlier the letter serves as date proof of your request. It can help you avoid “waiting time penalties” and shows that your employer denied payment even after the request was made.
A demand letter should contain the following:
Get Third Party Help
The last tip towards making sure you are paid for overtime is get third party help. There are some cases in which nothing you personally do can remedy the situation. Third party help can ensure that you are getting the overtime you deserve.
There are typically two types of third parties that you can request help from. The first is to hire a lawyer. Employers who refuse overtime pay even after requested should expect to hear from lawyers. There are a lot of lawyers who deal with labor disputes such as unpaid wages, overtime page, wrongful termination, and more. You can suit your employer for unpaid overtime wages and even other damages. You can also potentially recover punitive or penalty damages, and attorney and court fee expenses.
Another third party option is to file a claim with the labor commissioner. Your state’s Labor Commission is a government agency with the authority to investigate and enforce state wage laws including overtime. Claims can be filed at a Labor Commission’s Wage Claims Office.
Andrew Fujii is a marketing professional with expertise in digital/web and content marketing. He is also a copywriter for multiple agencies producing copy for blogs, articles, websites, product packaging, mobile apps, and more.