Some people feel happy when they hear the word “overtime” at their job. If their boss offers them overtime, and they need money at that moment, it might seem borderline miraculous that they can put in some additional hours, thereby padding their paycheck.
Other individuals will be less thrilled if their boss tells them they’d like the employee to work longer than their designated shift or more hours than they expected each week. You could be in a spot where you want that extra money, but you also must take care of your kids, prepare meals, clean the house, and do other chores for which you now won’t have the time.
Whichever way you feel about overtime, it’s helpful to know the legal basis on which employers can offer it. Let’s discuss whether you must accept overtime when your superior at your job offers it to you and what might happen if you turn it down.
What Exactly is Mandatory Overtime?
The business world usually uses the terms forced overtime and mandatory overtime interchangeably. Your boss can impose forced overtime if they feel like there’s an urgent need for it.
There are a few particular jobs where forced overtime comes into play often. These include seafaring jobs, ranch or farm employees, youth camp workers, fire prevention, forest protection, public officials, and more.
The Fair Labor Standards Act
The Fair Labor Standards Act, abbreviated as FLSA, states that employers who force their workers to put in over forty hours per week must pay them at least time and a half. This is a different way of saying that if you must put in more than forty hours per week, you will get at least 50% more than your regular hourly wage for the extra time you put in over forty hours.
However, all the jobs that we mentioned do not have that provision in place. For instance, if you’re something like a firefighter, and you must work more than 40 hours per week, your employer does not legally have to pay you time and a half.
Is There Any Way to Fight This?
You may feel like it is not fair for you to have to put in more than forty hours each week but not receive the mandated time and a half that some employees in other professions get. Legally, though, there is nothing you can do to fight this policy. It’s in place for particular jobs and fields, and that’s not likely to change anytime soon.
The one thing you should do, if this bothers you very much, is to realize before you enter into these particular professions that you will not receive time and a half if you do have to work more than forty hours per week.
You can look this information up online, but you should also talk to your would-be employer to hear explicitly from them what the overtime policy is. Often, the jobs and careers where you cannot expect to get time and a half when you work over forty hours per week are positions where you’re doing a public service of some kind.
It Differs State by State
There aren’t laws in place that mandate that an employer can only offer you a certain amount of overtime hours per week, either. When we say “offer,” that might be the language an employer uses, but if they tell you that you must put in those extra hours because your company is short-staffed, it’s not an offer at all. Your boss is mandating that you work those hours, and you will fall out of favor if you say no.
They might even fire you if they offer you extra hours each week and you keep turning them down. Again, that might seem unfair, but there are few laws in place that prevent this sort of behavior.
Some states are trying to put protections in place that prevent individuals from working an obscene number of hours every week without at least receiving time and a half for it. For instance, Minnesota now has laws that don’t allow retaliatory action for a nurse who refuses an overtime shift. Other states have identical statutes on the books or that they have recently proposed.
If you are getting into a new career field or starting a new job, it pays to talk to current employees in that niche or at that company, so they can tell you about what the forced overtime situation is like there.