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Employee Overtime: Who Gets Paid And Why? (Laws Explained)

The first point of consideration when discussing employee overtime is the number of hours an employee can legally work before overtime pay kicks in. The United States Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has set guidelines to safeguard the health and well-being of workers during extended and unusual work shifts. However, the maximum hour allowed to work is 40 hours in a workweek. This means that employees will receive overtime pay, typically at a rate of one and a half times of their regular wage. 

Who Is Covered?

Overtime pay eligibility in the United States is primarily determined by the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), a federal labor law. The FLSA defines which employees are covered and entitled to overtime pay. In general, employees who are eligible for overtime pay are considered “non-exempt” employees, while “exempt” employees are not entitled to overtime pay. 

However, some categories of workers may be exempt from federal overtime laws, such as independent contractors, certain agricultural workers, and certain transportation industry employees, among others. Additionally, specific exemptions apply to executive, administrative, and professional employees who meet certain criteria regarding job duties and salary levels.

Employee Working Overtime | NYOSHA30

It’s essential for employers to be aware of these exemptions and ensure they comply with both federal and state overtime regulations. Employers must keep accurate records of employees’ hours worked and provide overtime pay when required. Here’s a summary of who is typically covered for overtime pay under the FLSA:

1. Non-Exempt Employees

Non-exempt employees are eligible for overtime pay. They are typically paid on an hourly basis and are entitled to receive overtime compensation when they work more than 40 hours in a workweek.

2. Hourly Workers

Many hourly workers are non-exempt and covered by overtime pay provisions. Their overtime pay is usually calculated at a rate of 1.5 times their regular hourly wage for each hour worked beyond 40 hours in a workweek.

3. Job Roles

Employees whose job duties primarily involve routine or manual work are more likely to be classified as non-exempt. For example, administrative assistants, receptionists, and factory workers are often considered non-exempt employees. 

4. Salary Level Workers

Many countries have a minimum salary threshold that determines whether an employee is exempt or non-exempt. If an employee earns less than this threshold, they are typically considered non-exempt and eligible for overtime pay. However, it’s essential to check the specific threshold applicable in your jurisdiction.

Maximum Hours Allowed to Work

Employees should work at least 8 hours per day and 40 hours per week to get overtime pay. The complete working hours will not surpass 144 in the 3 weeks. After 5 consecutive days, each employee is allowed to take a break of almost one hour.

What Is Considered Overtime?

According to the FLSA (Fair Labor Standards Act), Overtime is typically defined as any work hours that exceed the standard or contractual working hours established for an employee. The specific criteria for what is considered overtime can vary depending on local labor laws, employment contracts, and company policies. Here are some common ways overtime is defined:

1. Weekly Overtime

Many countries and regions calculate overtime on a weekly basis. For instance, in the United States, a prevalent rule states that any hours worked beyond 40 in a single workweek qualify as overtime. Therefore, if an employee exceeds 40 hours of work in a week, they are entitled to receive overtime pay for the additional hours.

2. Daily Overtime

Some places calculate overtime based on daily hours worked. In this case, any hours worked beyond a specified number of hours in a single day are considered overtime. For example, if the standard workday is 8 hours, any hours worked beyond 8 in a day might be overtime.

3. Employment contracts

Employment contracts or collective bargaining agreements may specify different overtime thresholds or rules. It’s crucial to review the terms of the employment contract to understand how overtime is defined in a specific job.

4. Public Holiday & Weekends

Overtime may also apply to hours worked on public holidays or weekends, depending on local regulations and employment agreements.

How Will The Pay Be Decided?

The first thing to be considered is that for adult employees, there might be no legal limit to the total amount of hours and days they work, but the FLSA establishes a requirement for overtime pay in the public and private sectors. 

Construction Worker Doing Overtime Work | NYOSHA30

Can a salary employee be forced to work over?

Yes. Employers can often mandate that salaried employees work overtime based on the terms outlined in their employment contract or company policies. However, whether these employees receive compensation for overtime work hinges upon their classification under labor laws. Salaried employees classified as exempt from overtime pay regulations may receive additional compensation for exceeding regular working hours.

The requirement to work overtime might be based on the nature of their job, company expectations, and the specific agreement within their employment contract. However, in many jurisdictions, labor laws establish specific limitations on compelling employees to work beyond regular hours without providing additional compensation.

Is overtime over 8 hours a day or 40 hours a week?

As per the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), they stated that an employee is entitled to overtime pay if they work 8 hours or more of authorized overtime each day. In accordance with other policies, anything over 40 hours is overtime in a workweek. When these rules collide or there are exceptions, hourly workers may receive some unexpected payments. However, part-time hours per week are also considered overtime.

How much is overtime pay?

If you’ve decided to reward your staff for working overtime, you’ll probably give them an “overtime premium.” However, this overtime pay also depends on the country, state, or province. Here are some common guidelines to consider when deciding overtime pay. 

Is it legal to work 7 days a week without a day off? 

The legality of working seven days a week without a day off only depends on the labor laws on working hours specified to your country, region, or state. In some countries, it may be legal to work seven days a week without taking a break. For this, it’s better to consult with the local labor laws to comply with relevant regulations.

How many hours straight can you legally work?

An employee can work legally for eight hours. These are the standards set by a number of countries. Workers are allowed to take a break after working a certain number of hours and these kinds of breaks are usually unpaid.


Understanding these regulations is crucial for both employers and employees to ensure fair treatment and adherence to labor laws work hours. Overtime rules can vary by location, industry, and employment contract, so it’s essential to consult relevant laws on working hours to obtain accurate information to avoid legal issues and promote a healthy work life. To understand different laws related to workplace, it is important to enroll in trainings like New York OSHA 30-hour construction, where you can learn about workplace hazards and other important safety laws.