Workplace Rights

Weekly (7/26/10)

Topic of the Week  Rock Around the Clock--Getting Paid Fairly for Overtime Work

· DO know who is entitled to overtime pay.

· DO pay time and a half.

· DO pay in a timely fashion.

· DON'T overlook state laws.


There are specific rules for getting paid time-and-a-half when you work overtime. Which reminds me of a guy in Marion, Illinois who robbed a bank, got arrested, then tried to post bail using the cash he'd stolen. Might have worked, too, if the bills hadn't been covered with dye from an exploding dye pack the savvy bank teller had stashed next to the cash.

Well, comp time is a lot like that robber's cash, it's also tainted. Comp time, the practice of giving workers an hour off for every hour of overtime worked, is against the law for most of us. Why? The US Department of Labor (DOL) believes that workers should be paid 1.5 times their normal hourly wage for each overtime hour worked. DOL said they are ready, willing and able to go after companies that offer comp time with a hefty fine. For more, check out Fred Stiengold's book, "Employers Legal Handbook" (Nolo, 2009), or contact the local Department of Labor office.

DO know who is entitled to overtime pay. Who's entitled to overtime pay? Almost everybody. Of course, this being the government, there are exceptions: taxicab drivers, commissioned employees of retail or service establishments, employees who sell cars, trucks, trailers farm implements or aircraft, parts clerks and mechanics, announcers, news editors movie theater employees, home health care companions and farm workers. See Steingold's book, or the DOL, for definitions of those categories and then make sure your people are properly classified. Uncle Sam can get particularly snarky if he finds employers cheating people of their overtime, because he wants the income tax they should be paying on those dollars! So unlucky for you, Uncle Sam also has some skin in this overtime game.

DO pay time and a half. The FLSA says that businesses have to pay all "nonexempt" workers (that is, workers who qualify for overtime pay) at least time-and-a-half for every hour worked over 40 hours a week. And I'm willing to bet that your business is covered by the Act. Almost every business is. The FLSA covers any business that sends or receives mail from other states, makes or receives phone calls from other states, has over $500,000 in annual sales, or is specifically mentioned in the Act.

DO pay in a timely fashion. Overtime does not have to be paid immediately, but it should be paid within a 168 hour time period (seven 24 hours periods).

DON'T overlook state laws. Some states have laws concerning comp time that may be even stricter than the US law. Check with your state Department of Labor to see what additional restrictions may apply in your state.

Incidentally, that bank robber in Marion asked his mother to post his bail, so she was the one who showed up with the dye-stained cash. That little favor brought the family closer together: mom ended up in the slammer too. Tell your employer that if they don't want to join them, they need to pay employees the time-and-a-half the employees deserve.

About The Author: 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

Thought of the Week

"Our team has a lot of talent. I hope that soon we will break out with four or five goals and avoid overtime."

–Peter Bondra

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