Anyone of working age and who works a regularly scheduled job has heard of overtime pay. The word “overtime” has even entered English vernacular and expanded its meaning beyond the employment space (“My kids have me working overtime all day!”). Despite its regular usage, however, most people only have a vague, general idea about what overtime actually means from a legal perspective. Many more people share common misconceptions and believe myths about the application of overtime.
The purpose of this article is to provide a brief overview of New York and New Jersey overtime rules so that employees who are concerned about their right to receive overtime pay have a reference to help them determine if their employer failed to comply with overtime laws.
Back to Basics — What is the “rate of pay” and what is a “workweek”?
Two important foundational concepts underlie the concept of overtime: rate of pay and workweek. Rate of pay simply means the hourly rate at which an employer pays an employee. The workweek is a set seven-day period (not necessarily Sunday to Saturday, but the period must be repeated regardless of where it is marked).
Structure of New York and New Jersey Overtime Laws
Both New York and New Jersey have passed labor laws that regulate overtime, and both states’ laws are based on the Federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). The FLSA was created by the federal government as a statutory floor for national labor regulations. Many states, such as New York and New Jersey have passed more stringent regulations, but no state can have a law that protects workers any less than the FLSA. Further, New York, New Jersey, and Federal law exempt certain employees from the overtime requirements. For example, certain white-collar employees paid on a salary basis are exempt from overtime.
New York and New Jersey overtime laws require employers to pay non-exempt employees at a rate of 1 ½ times (150%) the employee’s regular rate of pay for any hours worked in excess of forty hours in a workweek.
In both New York and New Jersey, there are no caps for the total number of hours worked each workweek (except for certain industries and professions such as factory workers). This means that an employer and an employee can agree that the employee will work for as long as he or she humanly can so long as the employer pays overtime. Neither the employee nor the employer can waive overtime pay. Additionally, an employer can require an employee to work overtime so long as the employee is actually paid at an overtime rate.
Common Overtime Law Violations
Many employers violate the overtime laws on a regular basis. Some employers do so intentionally knowing that employees either will not notice or will not care. Other employers violate overtime laws under mistaken beliefs. As employment law attorneys, we have seen a number of different overtime calculation mistakes and overtime-avoidance schemes. Below are some of the most common overtime ploys that occur in the workplace:
- Travel Time Violations: It is generally understood that an employee is not entitled to be paid for the travel time going to and from work. That said, many employers regularly violate at-work travel time. For example, once an employee has arrived at work, if the employee must travel to some other job site for the same employer for any reason, that travel time counts towards the employee’s total hours worked. A similar example is the process of “donning” and “doffing” protective gear. Many employers have been sued recently because they did not pay employees either for the time they spent putting on and/or taking off protective gear kept at work, or for the time spent walking from the locker room to the actual worksite.
- Misclassification: As described above, there are some exemptions to the overtime laws, and employers are notorious about misclassifying workers under those exemptions to avoid paying overtime. Similarly, many employees are improperly classified as “independent contractors” rather than employees, which also often results in overtime violations.
Hopefully, this article has clarified the structure of New York and New Jersey overtime laws. If you believe that your employer may be violating your right to receive overtime, you should document the practices that you think are improper and consult with an experienced employment law attorney.
If you have been denied overtime and are searching for an experienced employment law attorney, the Law Offices of Yuriy Moshes can provide passionate representation in either New York or New Jersey and help you seek financial compensation in court.