Overtime laws require employers to pay employees a wage rate that is greater than their regular rate for hours worked beyond a designated threshold. The typical threshold set by most overtime laws, whether state or federal law, is forty (40) hour per workweek. In other words, an employer is required to pay an employee an overtime rate for all hours worked in a workweek beyond forty (40). Some overtime laws contain other thresholds. For example, some state laws require employers to pay employees an overtime wage rate for any hours worked beyond eight (8) in a work day.
An employer is not necessarily required to pay overtime to all its employees. Most overtime laws exclude employees who perform certain, specific types of job duties from the overtime payment requirements. These employees are generally referred to as exempt employees; employees who are eligible for overtime are referred to as non-exempt employees. In addition to exempting certain employees from overtime requirements, some overtime laws exempt employers in specific industries from overtime standards.
Federal Overtime Laws
Federal overtime laws are set forth in the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). Generally, it requires employers to pay non-exempt employees an overtime wage rate for all hours worked by employees beyond forty (40) hours in a workweek. The FLSA exempts several classifications of employees from its overtime provisions. For more information about federal overtime requirements, exemptions, and the FLSA, click here.
State Overtime Laws
Overtime laws vary between the states. Many states have either not passed any overtime laws or have simply adopted the federal overtime laws set forth in the FLSA. Other states have passed their own overtime laws, many of which are accompanied by their own complex sets of rules and regulations.
Conflicts between Federal and State Overtime Laws
In states where the state overtime law differs from the federal overtime law, the question is raised as to which law an employer must apply to its employees. The answer is that an employer must apply the overtime law that:
- results in its employees being paid overtime, if one law requires it and the other doesn’t, or
- results in the employee being paid the higher overtime wage rate, if one of the law requires a higher overtime wage rate than the other.