can an employer force you to work overtime

Can an Employer Make You Work Overtime Without Notice?

calender-alt November 11, 2022
user-alt By Peter Friedmann

Is It Legal for My Boss to Force Me to Work Overtime Without Notice?

Yes, federal and state laws allow employers to require unscheduled and mandatory overtime. As inconvenient and unwelcome as hearing, “I need you to work late today,” or “You’ll have to come in this weekend,” may be, such demands are perfectly legal.

The same laws that authorize unscheduled overtime, however, require employers to pay at least time-and-one-half to every employee who is eligible to earn overtime pay. This means you must be paid 1.5 times your regular hourly rate for all hours worked over 40 hours in one workweek.  Managers and supervisors only violate the rights of hourly workers when they force people to put in unpaid overtime.

Unfortunately, our Cleveland employment attorneys often hear from people who are required to work extended, double, and weekend shifts without warning and without the legally mandated overtime pay. Protecting yourself and securing unpaid wages are possible when you understand your rights under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), a federal law, and the equivalent state statutes.

Individual workers and groups of employees can file claims for unpaid overtime, called class or collective action lawsuits.

Know Who Qualifies to Earn Overtime Pay

Generally, employees who get paid by the hour and who are not responsible for managing or supervising coworkers qualify to earn overtime pay after working more than 40 hours during a 7-day workweek. Wait staff, bartenders and other people who regularly accept tips also typically qualify to earn overtime pay.  There are a few other exemptions to the FLSA such as administrative employees, professional employees and sales and computer professionals.

Too many employers attempt to withhold overtime by doing things such as:

  • Designating employees as independent contractors who have no FLSA protections,
  • Giving non-managerial employees bogus titles because salaried managers are exempt from earning overtime, and
  • Telling tipped employees they are not eligible for overtime.

In truth, the full set of rules and regulations for qualifying to earn overtime are complicated. Speaking with an experienced and knowledgeable employment lawyer can help you understand whether you are entitled to overtime pay and could stop your employer from using the complexity of the system to deny you overtime pay for all of the hours you work.

Do Not Let Managers Make You Work Off the Clock

Other tricks employers use to deny and withhold overtime include:

  • Offering compensatory time off in lieu of paying time-and-a-half,
  • Requiring prep work before clocking in,
  • Requiring closing work after clocking out, and
  • Treating certain shifts and tasks as voluntary instead of required.

These practices can be particularly pernicious and harmful to employees. The FLSA and related state laws permit each of these things in limited circumstances, but all are ripe for abuse by managers and supervisors.

For instance, workers are allowed to accept comp time. A violation of the FLSA occurs when any of the following occurs:

  • The employer fails to keep proper records of the overtime hours worked,
  • The employee is never granted time off or only granted a small percent of their comp time, or
  • The employer offers only comp time and never approves overtime pay.

Similarly, decades of FLSA case law confirm that employers can require employees to put on safety gear before starting a shift. Dressing time, often called “donning and doffing,” is rarely what the law calls compensable. Where an FLSA violation might occur when an employer requires a shift leader to inspect all their coworkers’ safety gear before allowing the shift leader to clock in.

A very common unpaid overtime complaint we hear from our Cleveland employment law clients is that managers tell them to clock out so they do not have more than 40 hours on their weekly timesheet. Such requests can come at any point during a shift, which might leave an employing working almost an entire extra day without earning the overtime they are legally entitled to receive. What Can I Do If I’m Not Getting Overtime Wages?

As a final example of how managers and supervisors can take advantage of the FLSA, employers are permitted to encourage workers to perform community service for organizations the company supports. A manager cannot, however, make volunteering a condition of keeping one’s job. An employee who is required to work at a company-sponsored event must be paid for that time, including any overtime that is accrued.

Now, let’s take a moment to look at some frequently asked questions that relate to mandatory overtime laws and if you can be forced to work overtime. 

How Will I Know if a Job Requires Overtime Hours?

Any job can require overtime hours.  If you are protected by the FLSA and do not fall within an exemption to the FLSA, you are entitled to be paid time and one-half for all hours worked over 40 hours in a workweek.

Can You Get Fired for Refusing to Work Overtime?

Yes, you can be fired for refusing to work overtime. Your employer is allowed to fire you for refusal to work mandatory overtime.

Can an Employer Force You to Work on Your Day Off?

Your employer can require that you work on your day off. You can refuse to work on your day off, but your employer will have the right to fire you if they wish to.

Along with federal and state mandatory overtime laws, it’s important to note that Ohio is an at-will employment state.  This means that either an employee or an employer can break off the employment relationship for any reason – so long as those reasons are legal.

Being required to work on your day off can seem extremely unfair, but it is legal.

How Much Notice is Required for Mandatory Overtime?

Currently, there are no laws that require your employer to provide you with a specific amount of notice for any overtime they request.

There are certain industries that have hourly restrictions on the number of continuous hours that an employee can work. For example, the trucking industry involves the operation of commercial vehicles. Employers in this industry will need to comply with relevant restrictions and ensure that any additional hours added to an employee’s schedule do not result in an employee working more than is permissible pursuant to state or federal law.

Unpaid wages and withheld overtime are more than legal violations. They exploit and financially harm workers that rely on that money to make a living and care for their families. Employers who engage in unfair and illegal pay practices must be held accountable. The Friedmann Firm strives to hold employers that violate the FLSA and Ohio’s wage and hour laws accountable.

You can connect with us online or over the phone at 614-610-9755 to schedule a free, confidential consultation today.

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