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Time and Half? Knowing the overtime rules

Sam, a purchasing manager, worked late on Tuesday--well past his usual departure time of 4:30. When his wife called at 8 o'clock, he finally called it a night and went home. The next day, Sam again worked late and by the end of the week he had put in a ten extra hours.

Jan, a salesclerk, worked her usual hours that week, but on Friday her boss asked her to come in over the weekend to help with inventory. Jan didn't mind. Her kids were out of town with their dad and she figured it would help pass the time.

Are they getting paid extra?

Both the Federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FSLA) and the state of New York have very strict laws on overtime. In a nutshell, if an employee works over 40 hours in a week, usually that employee is entitled to compensation equal to one and one half times their usual hourly wage. But are their exceptions to the rule?

Yes, there are three specific employment categories that are exempt from the overtime rule: Executive, administrative and professional employees. The rules that govern these positions are very specific, but in general, employees who are exempt from overtime pay are involved with decisions, policies and powers within the company. Someone who has no real influence in a company is most likely entitled to overtime pay.


But don't be fooled. An employee's title does not grant or deny them the right to overtime. And for some employers this can be confusing. Take, for example, the cases above. While Sam has the title of "manager", he has no ability to determine policies or protocol for the company. Instead he relies on upper management to make these determinations.

His boss tells him when to come in, when to leave, what software to use, and what he may or may not purchase for the company. In contrast, Jan's title of "salesclerk" belies her responsibilities. Jan has the power to hire and fire employees, determine raises, approve vacation time and assign duties to other employees as she sees fit.

The takeaway

Based on duties and a lack of autonomy, an argument can be made that Sam is entitled to overtime pay under federal and state laws. Similarly, Jan's supervisory roles indicate she just might be exempt from overtime.

The lesson is to make overtime decisions based, not on title, but on the roles and responsibilities of a position.


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