Workplace Rights

Weekly (4/23/12)

Topic of the Week  Always On, Who Doesn't Get Overtime

Always On, Who Doesn't Get Overtime


  • Executives.
  • Administrators.
  • Professionals.
  • Information technology or sales staff.
  • People who earn more than $455 a week.

Always On: Surviving Overtime

Can't remember the last time that you got home from work at a normal hour? You're not alone. Lawsuits concerning overtime have increased 32% since 2008, which has led the Department of Labor to increase it's enforcement staff by 40%. This has resulted in over $225 million in back pay recovered in 2011. Overtime? Think of it as the lawyer's relief act. Which reminds me of when police in Sri Lanka found the body of Janaka Basnayake who had tried to set the world record for the longest time buried alive. He didn't survive being buried in a ten foot trench. Clearly his 6 1/2 hours underground was a bit too ambitious.

Like poor Mr. Basnayake, many companies expect employees to allow themselves to be buried under a heavy workload without demanding the pay they deserve. Let me explain, the Fair Labor Standards Act requires that non-exempt employees must be paid 1.5 times the regular pay rate if they work more than 40 hours in a single week. This 1938 law couldn't be easier to understand, correct? Not at all, it feels more like a lawsuit generating machine. Below I'll explain who and what does NOT qualify for overtime.

Executives. If you manage, hire and fire employees then you are probably not going to get paid extra for working more than 40 hours in a week. Because you're calling the shots for your company. That said, there has been an increase in hourly supervisors and their companies that say that these supervisors don't qualify for overtime pay.

Administrators. These are the people who make key decisions about how companies are run. This exception highlights the soft underbelly of the law. Who is, and who isn't an administrator? Even this term, administrator, feels like it's right out of the 1950's.

Professionals. This group includes lawyers or engineers or anyone who has an advanced degree. In 1938 exempting professional probably made sense, but with more lawyers and MBAs than actual people in today's workforce, I'm not sure it does anymore.

Information technology or sales staff. These workers have been made exempt because their hours often aren't easily tracked. Are these categories starting to seem pretty random to you? They do to me too. So if a hard working person's hours are hard to track, just exclude them from overtime. Yes, this column is full of editorial comments, because most of these categories make absolutely no sense.

People who earn more than $455 a week. If you earn more then you're probably stuck working off the clock. That's less than $25,000 a year.

Most employees fear suing their company. But in the case of overtime it isn't just David going up against Goliath. No, you have your own Goliath, the United States government on your side. Because when you don't get paid fairly, the government doesn't get the taxes that it feels it is due. Buried alive at work? Don't worry, there are lawyers out there ready to dig you out.

Bob Rosner is a best-selling author and award-winning journalist. For free job and work advice, check out the award-winning Check the revised edition of his Wall Street Journal best seller, "The Boss's Survival Guide." If you have a question for Bob, contact him via

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""I have a theory that the truth is never told during the nine-to-five hours.""

–Hunter S. Thompson

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