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Can My Employer Force Me to Work Overtime?


You just finished working your shift and your supervisor pulls you aside and says you need to stay on for another four hours to cover part of a co-worker's shift. Although you may get paid to work the extra time, you may not want to do it on that occasion. Maybe you have children to get home to, or you are just plain tired. Do you have to comply? What happens if you refuse and your employer punishes you for it in some way? What are your rights?

What does the law consider "forced overtime?"

Forced overtime, also referred to as "mandatory overtime," is legal, at least under federal laws. Generally speaking, employers are allowed to require employees to work as many hours as they want. The only catch is that the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) requires employees in certain jobs to be paid time and a half for any hours worked over 40 each week.

Additional restrictions on overtime

Some states have additional limitations. Also, certain occupations, such as truck drivers and nurses, are subject to additional overtime regulations. There are approximately 16 states that impose further restrictions on mandatory overtime, ranging from limiting the number of hours that can be worked, to actually prohibiting mandatory overtime for certain occupations.

In some situations, where union contracts are in place, there may also be additional restrictions on the amount of overtime that can be required. If these union agreements are violated, it is considered a breach of contract, which will make the employer subject to a lawsuit.

Can I Refuse to Work Overtime?

The reality is, if you refuse to work overtime when required, you will likely be subject to discipline, including termination. However, if the requirement to work overtime is illegal in some way, such as violating an agreement, creating a health or safety hazard, or violating state or federal laws, then the required overtime can be challenged by the employee. If you do agree to work overtime, be sure that your employer pays you the extra wages that are required.

Although most occupations are governed by the FLSA, there are a few exceptions to the requirement for time and a half. These occupations include:

  • Farm or ranch workers
  • Seamen or workers on water-bound vehicles
  • Youth counselors with child care responsibilities
  • Computer professionals
  • Administrative professionals
  • Salaried professionals

So, unless you work in one of these professions, you should report any failure of your employer to pay you time and a half for overtime work to your employment attorney.

When should I Consult a Lawyer about Mandatory Overtime?

If you are being forced to work overtime in violation of an employment or union contract; if you have not been appropriately compensated for your overtime, in compliance with state or federal law; if you believe that the conditions of your overtime create a health or safety concern, or otherwise feel your employment rights have been violated, you should discuss your situation with an attorney.

If you feel your rights as an employee have been violated, or if you have any questions regarding your employment rights, please contact Michel | King , either online or by calling us at (205) 265-1880.

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