Four common misconceptions about overtime in the USA

We present four common misconceptions about overtime requirements under the United States’ Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).

Myth # 1 – You’re salaried, so you don’t get overtime

Being paid a salary is a prerequisite for many of the FLSA’s most common overtime exemptions, but it is not enough on its own. To be eligible for an exemption, an employee also must perform certain duties, such as managing a company department or practicing medicine. If, for one ridiculously hypothetical example, a fast food cashier happened to be paid $1 million a year, he or she would still have to be paid overtime for any hours worked beyond 40 in a workweek.

Myth # 2 – Instead of us paying you overtime for your extra hours this week, you can just take some time off next week

The practice of compensating employees for overtime hours with time off instead of cash, commonly referred to as “comp time,” is not allowed in the private sector. Public-sector employers may do so under certain circumstances, however. Although federal legislators recently introduced bills that would expand comp time to the private sector, they are unlikely to pass, let alone gain enough votes to override a presidential veto.

Myth # 3 – You can’t require an employee to work overtime

Nothing in the FLSA forbids employers from requiring adult employees to work overtime or from disciplining them or even firing them if they fail to do so. The FLSA does restrict the number of hours that minors may work, as do many states. Also, other state and federal laws may restrict working hours for some employees, such as commercial truck drivers.

Myth # 4 – Employees must be paid overtime if they work more than eight hours a day, or if they work on the weekend or a holiday

A handful of states require employers to pay overtime to employees who work more than eight hours in a day or for seven consecutive days in a workweek. But the FLSA does not. As long as employees are paid overtime for hours beyond 40 in a workweek, it does not matter when those hours fall. In other words, if an employee works five hours a day from Monday through Sunday, for a total of 35 hours in his or her workweek, then he or she is not entitled to overtime under the FLSA.

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