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Can My Employer Force Me to Work Overtime?

February 15th, 2022
Philadelphia Employment Discrimination Lawyers at The Gold Law Firm P.C., Secure Overtime Payments for Employees.

Federal law states that employers can legally require you to work overtime. In fact, employers can schedule you for as many mandatory overtime hours as they see fit if it means getting the job done on time. There is no limit to the maximum number of hours that your employer may require you to work in a week. However, if you are forced to work overtime, you must be paid the premium rate for the overtime hours worked. According to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), the regular work week is 40 hours. Employers must pay workers overtime pay, or time and a half, or every hour that they work over 40 hours. If you have not been paid the overtime rate, or the mandatory overtime violated your employment contract, you are urged to contact a lawyer experienced in employment discrimination as soon as possible.

According to the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry, employers in Pennsylvania have total discretion over scheduling, meaning they can require you to work as many overtime hours as they deem necessary. In addition, if you refuse to work the overtime hours, you could face disciplinary action, including a pay cut, reduced hours, or termination from your position. An employer may not schedule you to work more than 40 hours in a week and then refuse to pay you the time and a half that you deserve. Some employers have a policy in place that prohibits employees from working overtime hours. In fact, if the employee works more than 40 hours in a week, he or she may face disciplinary action for breaking the rule against working overtime, but the employer must still pay the premium rate for the number of overtime hours worked.

If you do not want to work an excessive amount of overtime hours, you may be able to negotiate a cutoff for the overtime hours requirement. You may have an opportunity to have this conversation during the hiring process, at which time you and the employer can discuss the maximum number of overtime hours you are willing to work. If your employer agrees to the terms, it is highly recommended that the employee contract reflects the agreement and both you and your employer sign the contract. When negotiating the overtime terms, keep in mind that the hours may be reduced, but not pay, according to the FLSA.

Has Mandatory Overtime Changed for Health Care Workers?

In 2008, the Pennsylvania legislature passed the Prohibition of Excessive Overtime in Health Care Act, which limits the number of hours that health care workers can be required to work. Although it does not limit the exact number of hours they can work, they may not work beyond their normally scheduled shift. In addition, the act only applies to non-supervisory, hourly workers who are involved in direct clinical or patient care services. 

The Act also states that health care employees also have the right to refuse to work over 40 hours in a week without facing any retaliation from their employer. The employer may not attempt to circumvent the rules governing overtime hours by scheduling an employee to work on call. There are limited exceptions in which employers may require health care workers to work longer shifts, including unforeseen emergencies such as natural disasters and the global pandemic. However, before scheduling a health care worker for overtime hours, the employer must provide notice, consider alternative options, and schedule him or her only as a last resort.

What Employees Are Exempt from Mandatory Overtime?

For you to qualify for overtime pay, you must be a non-exempt employee, which means that you are entitled to minimum wage and overtime pay if you work more than 40 hours in a week. Non-exempt employees are usually paid by the hour or earn a salary that is less than a minimum amount determined by the Department of Labor. The Federal government allows exceptions for workers who make more than $100,000 per year; however, Pennsylvania must pay all of its employees overtime pay unless they work in executive, professional, or administration positions. Examples of non-exempt employees include:

  • Contractors
  • Freelancers
  • Servers
  • Retail associates

Exempt employees are not regulated by the FLSA, which means they are not eligible for overtime pay. Examples of exempt employees include the following:

  • Sales employees who work on commission
  • Recreational or seasonal employees
  • Computer professionals who make a minimum of $27.60 per hour
  • Mechanics, parts men, and/or servicemen who work at car dealerships
  • Drivers, driver’s helpers, loaders
  • Farm workers
  • Administrative, executive, and professional employees who are paid a salary

What Should Employers Consider When Forcing Employees to Work Overtime?

Although it may seem unfair that your employer can require you to work overtime, it is well within his or her rights to do so. However, there are some important factors that your employer must keep in mind when scheduling employees to work more than 40 hours in a work week. In addition to being required to pay time and a half for employees who work more than 40 hours, employers must also consider the following:

  • Safety risks: According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), prolonged overtime can cause extreme fatigue and decreased alertness, which can increase the risk of serious accidents in the workplace. For example, truck drivers who are forced to work overtime hours can become exhausted, less coordinated, and less able to react quickly to unexpected traffic events. Drowsy driving accidents among truck drivers is a serious problem that can lead to devastating truck accidents. Employees who operate heavy machinery are also at an increased risk for a serious workplace accident if they are scheduled for multiple overtime shifts and are suffering from extreme fatigue. If working overtime hours poses a health or safety concern for any employees, the employer should not be allowed to mandate overtime work.
  • American with Disabilities Act (ADA): The ADA allows employees with disabilities to work overtime, provided the job is light duty, meaning the work is not overly taxing physically. If a disabled worker can carry out their duties safely, they may work overtime and be paid the time and a half for the overtime hours worked.
  • State laws: Every state has different laws regarding mandatory overtime. In the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, mandatory overtime is legal, as long as you are compensated properly and the overtime hours do not create an unsafe work environment.
  • Overtime is based on weekly hours: According to the FLSA, an employee is eligible for overtime pay only when the weekly hours worked exceeds 40 hours. A common question asked by non-exempt workers is whether they are eligible for overtime pay if they work more than eight hours in a day. Although some states, including Alaska and California, do pay overtime for employees who work more than eight hours, Pennsylvania bases overtime pay on the number of hours worked in a week. In addition, overtime does not depend on the day of the week. For example, hours worked on a Saturday or Sunday only count as overtime if you already worked 40 hours earlier in the week.

What Should I Do if I Am Not Being Fairly Compensated for Working Overtime?

If you have been working overtime and you have not been receiving the overtime pay for which you are legally entitled, there are a number of steps you can take to rectify the situation and ensure that you receive the time and a half pay that is due you. If you feel comfortable doing so, discuss the issue with your employer. Unfortunately, some employers, particularly larger businesses, will try to take advantage of employees to save money. If you find yourself in a position such as this, or you are concerned about confronting your employer about the fact that you have not been properly compensated for your overtime hours, or that it could create a conflict between you and your employer, you are strongly urged to contact an experienced employment discrimination lawyer. Having a skilled legal professional representing you will send a message to your employer that you are taking the issue very seriously and that you will not be taken advantage of in this way. If you are unable to come to an acceptable agreement with your employer, your dedicated employment discrimination lawyer will assist you with a civil lawsuit so that you can recover the financial compensation for which you are entitled.

Philadelphia Employment Discrimination Lawyers at The Gold Law Firm P.C., Secure Overtime Payments for Employees

If you are a non-exempt employee and have not been compensated for yourovertime hours, or the overtime hours for which you were scheduled violates your employment contract, you are urged to contact the Philadelphia employment discrimination lawyers at The Gold Law Firm P.C. We will work closely with you to protect your rights and secure the overtime compensation for which you are entitled. Our dedicated team will assist you with the claims process and ensure that your legal rights are always protected.  Call us today at 215-569-1999 or contact us online for a free consultation. Located in Philadelphia and Pennsauken, New Jersey, we serve clients throughout South Jersey and Southeastern Pennsylvania, including Wilkes-Barre, Scranton, Northeast Philadelphia, Bucks County, Chester County, Delaware County, and Montgomery County.

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