Most employers are required to pay overtime to at least some of their employees. The overtime premium is half of your usual hourly rate. This means you are entitled to “time and a half” — your usual hourly rate plus the 50% overtime premium — for every extra hour you work. Can a company refuse to pay overtime? Let’s find out.
Not all employees can earn overtime, however. Whether you are entitled to extra pay depends on your state’s law, your job duties, and how many hours you have worked.
Which Employers Have to Pay Overtime
Although the vast majority of employers have to pay overtime, not all do. To figure out whether your employer has to pay it, first determine whether it’s covered by the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), the federal wage and hour law that sets out the rules. Generally, a business is covered by the FLSA if it has $500,000 or more in annual sales.
Even if your employer is smaller, however, it is still covered by the FLSA (and must pay overtime) if it is engaged in what Congress calls “interstate commerce” — that is, it conducts business between states. Interstate commerce covers more than you might think, including making phone calls to or from another state, sending mail out of state, or handling goods that have come from, or will go to, another state. If your employer is so small or local that it isn’t covered by the FLSA (and this will be a pretty rare occurrence), it still might be covered by your state’s overtime law. Contact your state labor department for details.
Which Employees Are Entitled to Earn Overtime Pay
If an employer is covered by the FLSA, it must pay overtime to all eligible employees unless they fit into an exception to the law. If you fall into one of these exception categories, you are “exempt” from the federal overtime law, which means you are not entitled to it (remember, even if your employer isn’t covered by the FLSA, you may be entitled to overtime under state law):
- Executive, administrative, and professional employees who are paid on a salary basis (see below)
- independent contractors
- outside salespeople (employees who customarily and regularly work away from the employer’s business, selling or taking orders to sell goods and services)
- certain computer specialists (such as systems analysts, programmers, and software engineers) who earn at least $27.63 per hour
- employees of seasonal amusement or recreational businesses, such as ski resorts or county fairs
- employees of organized camps, or religious or nonprofit educational conference centers that operate for fewer than seven months a year
- employees of certain small newspapers
- newspaper deliverers
- workers engaged in fishing operations
- employees who work on small farms
- certain switchboard operators
- criminal investigators, and
- casual domestic baby sitters and people who provide companionship to those who are unable to care for themselves (this exception does not apply to those who provide nursing care, or to personal and home care aides who perform a variety of domestic services).
So, can a company refuse to pay overtime? If you are entitled to earn overtime pay, then no they cannot.