Overtime pay rules protect bosses, employees alike

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Question: Can my boss make me take time off next week instead of paying me for the overtime I was asked to work this week?

Answer: No. If you are paid on an hourly basis (a job classified as non-exempt) and are asked to work more than 40 hours in a seven-day workweek then you are to be paid overtime of at least one-and-a-half times your normal hourly rate.

The Fair Labor Standards Act administered by the U.S. Department of Labor makes it clear that your boss can not substitute a cash bonus, gifts, time off in the future, or bargain with you in place of overtime pay. However, if the workload is light next week your boss can ask you to work shorter hours but he can’t ask you to forego or trade overtime pay this week.

There are exceptions for some jobs and there are wage and hour laws specific to jobs that have odd working hours.. The list of such jobs is long and can be found on the Department of Labor website. Examples include jobs in agriculture, fishing, carnivals, radio broadcasting and a variety of other industries.


Question: I have picked up new duties and I am happy to get something new and different to do. However, I am making mistakes while I am learning and working slower than I would like. I want to stay late and double check my work but my boss said no. I don’t want to be penalized if there are problems because I am learning. I cannot afford to lose this job and just want to make sure my work meets standards.

Answer: Your willingness to improve your skills on your own time is commendable, but if you are classified as a non-exempt, hourly worker you are to be paid even when you are in training.

So what do you do? First of all, my guess is that the boss gave you this new work because she has confidence that you can handle it. She should understand that there will be some bumps along the way as you learn new tasks. If your boss did not sit down with you and talk about her expectations for you during this training time then you should initiate a conversation. You will feel less anxious if you understand what quality and quantity of work is expected while you are learning your new duties.

Your boss should be happy that you want to do the best job possible. If your boss is feeling overloaded and doesn’t have time to devote to training you then try to reach an agreement on when you will be expected to perform the new tasks independently and at what standard of performance.

Once you are comfortable with expectations then relax and don’t create stress for yourself. You will improve a little each day and sooner than you might expect you will be comfortable with all your responsibilities.


Question: My boss always gives overtime to the same few employees. I want the overtime, should I complain?

Answer: You should speak up and let your boss know that you would welcome the chance to work some overtime. If you have made it clear that you want to work extra hours when it becomes available and the boss still gives the overtime work to other employees, then you should ask the boss why you aren’t considered. You need to find out if the boss doesn’t think you have the knowledge and skills to do the work or if he has other concerns about your work that you need address.

On the other hand, the boss may see you as perfectly qualified and capable to do the work but prefers to give overtime to other employees. You don’t have too many options. You may have to tolerate this and focus on doing a good job on the work you are assigned. If you don’t have a good relationship with your boss and feel that you are not being recognized or given opportunities, you can consider looking for another position in another department or outside the company.

Virginia Detweiler is a human resources consultant and has taught business and management at Walla Walla Community College’s Business and Professional Development Program and at Walla Walla University. Questions for her columns can be submitted to her email address at wwcomplady@gmail.com. Those used will be edited to remove information that would identify the sender. She also can be reached at 509-529-1910.

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