For many employers, overtime is their worst nightmare. Not only does it mean that work stacked up enough that employees had to stay late. It also means they have to pay their employees time and a half instead of their usual wages. For penny-pinching companies that are worried about the bottom line, denying rightful overtime is an undue temptation. Which is why thousands of professionals every year find themselves seeking an overtime pay claims lawyer.
You have a right to your overtime. In fact, you’re required by law to be paid time and a half for any work you do over 40 hours a week even if you were willing to let it lie. And your employer is legally obligated to pay. Unfortunately, businesses that don’t want to pay overtime can find a dozen different ways to deny overtime pay. And it might require legal action to shake them out of their delusion that they are allowed to simply refuse to pay out.
Today, we’re here to take a close look at the six most common ways that shady employer deny overtime. If your situation matches any of these examples, then it’s time to call an overtime pay claims lawyer who can help you win your rightful pay. And potentially the rightful pay of your underpaid coworkers as well.
Your Employer Says They Didn’t Approve Your Overtime, So They Won’t Pay
In many industries, there’s an expectation that employees will do whatever it takes to meet deadlines and get projects finished. Whether you’re in software development or retail, there are many situations where it’s up to you to decide to work late or start out behind tomorrow morning. A lot of us would choose to work late, and in healthy workplaces, this is supported by the employer and overtime is gladly paid.
But if your employer is stingy with paychecks, they might have some kind of superficial overtime approval process where you have to get permission to work late as if you were taking a vacation day. And if you “overstep your bounds” by working overtime without permission, your employer *might* try to say that they won’t pay you because the extra hours weren’t approved.
Legally, they cannot do this. You are an hourly employee, you worked late, and employers are required by law to pay employees for any time worked. Including overtime, even if it hasn’t been approved. But if your employer is putting their foot down about payment, you may have to force the issue with legal action.
Your Employer Over-Scheduled You… But Now Say It’s a Mistake
Even worse is when your employer actually did ask you to stay late to finish a project. Or perhaps they simply put you on the schedule too many times and the hours stacked up to over 40. You showed up, you worked the extra hours you were scheduled for, and therefore you rightfully earned any hours that qualify for overtime pay.
But now your employer says it was a mistake. They didn’t mean to schedule you that much and you weren’t supposed to get any overtime. Maybe they’re even holding the person who did the scheduling accountable. Maybe not. Now your employer is offering to pay you for the hours normally. But surely you won’t force them to pay you overtime for one little scheduling mistake, right?
Wrong. Once again, you worked the hours. You worked over 40 hours in a week and are an hourly wage employee. So they owe you the overtime whether or not it was a mistake. And saying “Oops, our bad!” Doesn’t excuse them from the law or get you back those hours you worked.
Your Employer Has Misclassified You As Exempt to Avoid Overtime Pay
While the first two examples represent an employer who pinches pennies and can’t get their act together, there are also much more insidious and purposeful abuses of the overtime pay law. Some employers are highly aware that ‘exempt’ employees don’t have to be paid overtime. So anyone qualified as exempt can be over-worked for no additional pay. Not even hourly, because you must be salaried to be exempt.
Employers who use this “trick” are counting on you not knowing what exempt means. But to be ‘exempt’ from most employment laws has some very specific requirements. The first one is easy. They pay you a salary that is twice the minimum wage or more, based on an assumed 40-hour work week. But the second requirement is the kicker: You have to have a white-collar job with a lot of autonomy. The ability to choose how you do your tasks, to set your own schedule, and decide whether you work overtime.
If you’re being tasks and shift hours, or make less than twice the minimum wage weekly, your job doesn’t actually qualify as exempt and your employer is actually lying about your classification to avoid paying you any overtime. These employers have to be stopped with legal action because they are already trying to mistreat the law for their advantage. And your disadvantage.
Here at Aiman-Smith & Marcy, we work hard to defend the rights of employees in the face of manipulative and abusive employers. If your overtime is being denied through misclassification, scheduling chicanery, or pure spiteful withholding, we can help.
Contact us today for a consultation on your unique workplace situation.
Join us next time for the second half of this two-part article and three more common workplace circumstances where overtime may be denied unfairly and unlawfully.