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I'm working a lot of overtime. Is this legal?

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Q:

I'm working a lot of overtime. Is this legal?

A:

The answer to this question can depend on the state where you are working. Some states have strict laws concerning overtime pay and minimum wage, while other states have no workplace rules outside of federal employment guidelines. The real issue of whether an individual has a claim for unpaid overtime depends on their employment exemption status.

In most states, the exempt status is only applied to individuals who are salaried, and a salaried employee is usually designated as a company management employee. These employees often have benefits afforded only to certain company officials, but the exempt list is not necessarily limited to this employee class.

Federal Overtime Rules

Federal labor law requires employers to pay penalty time to employees who work over 40 hours during a seven-day work period. They are also required to allow a 30-minute meal break for those working over five hours in a work shift. This was mandated by the Fair Labor Standards Act during the 1930s and the Great Depression.

Anyone working over 40 hours per week is paid at 1.5 times the standard rate of pay during the seven-day work period for each hour beyond the limit. Workers that work seven consecutive days will be paid double time for each hour over eight worked hours on the seventh day. In addition, any time that an employee works over 12 hours in a day, they are to be paid at double their current standard rate of pay.

State Overtime Rules

It is important to understand that federal law is actually the basic standard for employment pay rate law. Individual states can make their own laws in higher standard to the federal threshold in an effort to better protect their state workforce.

The cost of living varies across the nation, and each state has the power to enhance work opportunities within their state. Some states such as California have set a minimum wage rate of $9 per hour and also have enhanced the overtime pay schedule to help the average worker.

Exempt Salaried Workers

Workers who are salaried and designated as management have traditionally had difficulties collecting for overtime pay that the employer claims was included in the company management agreement. These have historically been viewed as valid agreements. This condition may no longer be the norm, as the Obama Administration has taken moves that change how federal workers are paid with respect to overtime hours.

Based on an executive action, federal workers who are on salary will also be paid at 1.5 times the applicable hourly pay rate for hours worked over 40 per week or eight per day. While this cannot necessarily be applied to the private sector without state augmentation of overtime pay rate labor laws, it is a step in the right direction toward stopping abusive employer practices.

Why You Need An Experienced Employment Law Attorney

Overtime pay cases are always complicated when the amount owed to the plaintiff is being calculated, and the cases are almost always defended aggressively by respondent employers. Many times, the necessary documentation to prove the case may depend on employer records that could require court orders to attain.

Any pay records documentation that can be provided by the plaintiff is always a plus because the plaintiff legal counsel must prove that the money is actually owed by the employer. The plaintiff attorney is essentially the prosecutor in overtime pay claims because they are civil tort cases, and it is easy to lose a pay claim case on a technicality that may be avoided with effective legal counsel.

It is always a good idea to first get some information on your state laws regarding minimum wage, such as the specific minimum wage for certain jobs like waitress employment, and then consult with an experienced employment law attorney who is familiar with the changing legal landscape for recovering financial damages for denied overtime pay.

The sentiment of the nation is changing in terms of how employers pay their employees, as this is an area of law that state legislatures are also evaluating to enhance the economic viability of their particular state. If you think you have an overtime pay claim case, it is always a good decision to consult with an employment attorney who understands how to craft an effective case argument that will produce positive results and a maximum financial award.

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