The federal labor laws regarding overtime are set forth in the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), which also covers the minimum wage, child labor laws and various record keeping standards that employers have to follow.
Federal Overtime Labor Laws
For many workers, the federal overtime requirements are actually pretty simple:
Most workers are entitled to higher wages, often referred to as time-and-a-half, for any hours they work over 40 in one workweek. That’s the federal standard, one-and-one-half your regular rate for all hours over 40.
Some workers, including many salaried employees, aren’t entitled to overtime under federal law. They’re considered “exempt” from the FLSA. But not all workers who make a salary are exempt, and numerous employees who have been told they’re exempt are being lied to.
To learn if you’re really exempt from federal overtime laws, visit our guide to FLSA exemptions.
State Overtime Laws
Crucially, many states have their own overtime labor laws, and these are often more “generous” than the FLSA.
California is a good example:
The State Of California
California’s labor law says that the majority of workers are entitled to overtime for any hours worked over 8 in a day. And employees are entitled to double their wages when they work longer than 12 hours in one day.
The state’s also home to a “one day in seven” law, which is meant to discourage employers from scheduling workers seven days in a row. Employees who work seven consecutive days are entitled to overtime at time-and-a-half for the first 8 hours of their seventh day, and then double time for any more hours.
You Always Deserve The Most The Law Allows
While the FLSA isn’t quite as generous as California, one of the federal law’s greatest strengths is that it always entitles workers to the more generous regulation. If a state’s laws conflict with the federal requirements, your employer has to use the one that pays you more.
To learn about specific state overtime requirements, click here.
What Is The Labor Law For Breaks?
Under federal law, employers don’t need to give their workers breaks, either short rest breaks or lunch breaks. Some states have made a lunch break mandatory after a certain number of hours. You can find a list of states with mandatory break laws at the Department of Labor.
If you do get breaks, whether or not that time counts toward your pay depends on:
- how long the break is. Breaks of 20 minutes or less are generally paid. Not getting paid for a short break may be a wage and hour violation.
- your break is interrupted by work duties. Once you’ve started working again, you have to be paid for your time.
- if you’re on a paid meal break required by state law.
What Is The Labor Law For Hours Worked?
The primary federal law pertaining to hours worked is simple: you should be paid for all the hours you work. But the FLSA sets out a specific legal definition for “work,” which may be a little broader than you’d initially think.
First off, work is everything you assume it to be. All the tasks you perform during a scheduled shift? That’s work. Short breaks? That’s still works. But all the pre- and post-shift labor you perform is considered work, too. Anything you need to do to perform your job once you’re on your employer’s premises is work.
Here’s an example: employees at call centers work rigorous hours that are tightly-controlled. When they come in to work in the morning, they need to perform a few basic tasks, like turning on their computers and starting programs. In many cases, they don’t get paid to perform these tasks, even though they’re essential to a call center worker’s job. That’s a wage and hour violation, and numerous employers have been held accountable for violating those rights.
Anything your employer “permits or suffers” you to do is work. Any task, whether or not it was explicitly delegated to you – as long as your employer allows you to do something and knows or has reason to believe that you’re working, counts toward your hours.
Is Mandatory Or Forced Overtime Legal?
Yes, mandatory overtime is legal under federal law, unless your employer isn’t paying you overtime correctly. In fact, there’s no maximum to the amount of hours an employer can require.
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