Misconceptions Employees Often Have About Overtime Laws

Posted on behalf of Peter T. Nicholl in Unpaid Overtime Sep 30, 2021

looking at overtime book on deskUnfortunately, many employees do not know their rights under federal and state overtime laws. They may have some idea of the basics of overtime pay, but they often have misconceptions about their eligibility and when employers may have violated these laws.

Below, we discuss some of the common misconceptions that employees have about overtime laws and what the truth is. It is important to know the law to determine when your rights may have been infringed. If you know you are being denied overtime pay, you can start keeping track of your overtime hours.

You should also contact an experienced unpaid overtime lawyer right away to determine your potential legal options. At The Law Offices of Peter T. Nicholl, we have recovered millions on behalf of employees who were denied the wages they were legally owed. An initial consultation to discuss your situation is free of charge.

Eligibility for Overtime Pay

Federal overtime law sets criteria for overtime eligibility. However, many employees do not understand how detailed these criteria are. Your eligibility is not just based on how you are paid or your job title.

These are some of the misconceptions around overtime eligibility.

Your Job Title Can Make You Ineligible for Overtime Pay

Your eligibility is not based on your job title. It is based on how much you are paid and what you do each day. Unless your job fits the criteria for an overtime exemption, you are likely eligible for overtime pay for any hours you work over 40 in a week.

While many employees with the word “manager” or “senior” in their titles are ineligible for overtime, this determination is based on their job duties, not merely their title. For example, an employee’s job duties may fit the criteria for an administrative exemption:

  • Employee is paid on salary and receives at least $684 per week
  • Primary job is performing office or non-manual work that is directly related to the management or general business operations of the employer or employer’s customers
  • Primary duty include the use of discretion and independent judgment related to matters of significance

Being Paid on Salary Makes You Ineligible for Overtime

Many of the overtime exemptions mention being paid on salary. However, they also state how much the employee should earn each week, and this is not the only criteria for an overtime exemption.

If your employer starts paying you on salary but your job does not change much, you may be misclassified as overtime exempt.

If you are unsure about your eligibility for overtime, review some of the exemptions and consider what you do each day.

Independent Contractors Cannot Earn Overtime

While it is true independent contractors cannot earn overtime pay, you may have been misclassified as a contractor. In recent years, employers have been calling some of their workers independent contractors, even though these workers are really employees.

If you think you may have been misclassified as an independent contractor and have been working more than 40 hours per week, you may be owed overtime pay.

Permission to Work Overtime

Your employer may tell you through an email, employee handbook, in-person interaction or a document posted on the bulletin board in the breakroom that you cannot work overtime hours unless you have permission.

However, if you are non-exempt from overtime laws and you work more than 40 hours, your employer is required to pay you overtime wages. Employers are legally obligated to supervise you and manage your hours worked to make sure you do not work more than 40 hours in a week.

Working While Off the Clock

Many employees do work while they are off the clock. For example, you may be required to show up a few minutes before your shift to get set up, put on safety gear, handle housekeeping-type tasks or do other things. Employees may even do these kinds of things after their shifts.

While it is against the law for employers to make employees work through their breaks, sometimes it becomes part of the culture of the workplace. However, this is against the law, and if off-the-clock work causes employees to work more than 40 hours in a week, they must receive overtime pay.

An employer may argue you were not being forced to work off the clock. However, if the employer is aware of it, he or she can either put a stop to it or pay you for the overtime hours you work.

Averaging Hours Worked

If you do more than 40 hours of work in a week, and you are overtime eligible, you must receive overtime pay for the hours worked over 40. However, employers are always looking for ways to avoid overtime pay. They may average your hours worked over two weeks, so it looks like you never worked more than 40 in one week.

This is illegal under state and federal overtime law. If you worked overtime hours one week and not the next, you must be paid overtime pay for that first week.

Contact The Law Offices of Peter T. Nicholl to Schedule a Free Consultation

There is no risk in meeting with our firm to discuss whether you were denied overtime pay. This meeting is free and there is no obligation to hire our firm afterward. You decide what you want to do next.

Our experienced lawyers have been representing workers denied overtime for decades and have a proven track record of success.

Contact our personal injury lawyers for a free consultation if you have been injured by another’s negligence. You may be entitled to compensation.



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