Federal overtime pay rules exist to protect employees from exploitation by their employers. Companies cannot force workers to work every single day or to stay for extremely long shifts without paying them extra for that additional work.
Hourly workers have the right to expect overtime wages when they put in more than 40 hours in one workweek. Overtime wages are at least 150% of someone’s average hourly wage. Someone who usually makes $20 an hour should receive $30 an hour for any time in excess of 40 hours that they work.
Many salaried employees are exempt from overtime pay requirements. Since they command higher wages, their employers do not have to pay them extra for requiring more than 40 hours of work. However, not all workers paid on a salary basis are exempt from overtime requirements. You could still be eligible for overtime pay despite receiving the same check every week regardless of how much work you do.
When is a worker paid via salary entitled to overtime?
There is a simple standard established to determine if a worker is exempt from overtime pay requirements. The basis for exemption is a competitive or livable wage. Workers who receive an annual salary of $35,568 or less still have the right to receive overtime pay when they put in extra work.
Your employer may have wrongfully told you that you could not claim overtime pay, which may have been true prior to the Department of Labor adjusting the exemption threshold for salaried workers in 2019. However, now that federal regulations have increased the exempt salary, workers who previously did not qualify for overtime pay may now receive it.
How do you hold your employer accountable?
When your salary is too low to exempt you from overtime pay rules, you can bring a claim directly to your employer when they have failed to pay you appropriately.
Informing them of how many hours of overtime pay they have failed to provide based on your time clock records is likely the first step to take. If they refuse to pay you or take punitive actions against you for reporting the issue, then you may need to take them to court.