Thursday, September 17, 2009

Common Overtime Myths

Overtime pay has more myths and falsehoods concerning it than the entirety of Greek mythology. A more confusing topic that should be so simple does not exist. Overtime, on its face, looks very simple because it really is. It has become complicated because of the various rules concerning its application and use.

The first problem with overtime is the simple calculation of what the correct overtime rate is. The FLSA, or Fair Labor Standards Act, can be violated in this way very easily. To most, it is simple to calculate 1.5 times the base rate of pay. Some apparently find this very difficult or simply forget that an employee that works overtime is entitled to time and a half. Because of these mental lapses, the employer might pay straight time, which is wrong.

Another problem is that an employer may not realize exactly how many hours a person really works. If work hours are determined by the number of hours that a person is in an office, then many important hours are being left out. The FLSA is violated when an employer fails to pay for the full time worked. Common forgotten hours include time spent cleaning equipment, donning a uniform or the appropriate safety items for a shift, breaks, travel time in some cases, working late without being asked, and work done from home.

Another issue in overtime rules occurs concerning the classification of an employee. In some cases, an employee may be "reclassified" and is suddenly eligible for overtime. This is not inherently bad. If the "reclassification" occurs and the job hasn't changed one iota, then the employee was probably eligible for overtime prior to the "reclassification."

Furthermore, employers have been known to classify or count an employee as a contract worker or temporary worker or some other type of employee that does not employ that a person is a full employee. This is a problem because it may mean that someone classified as a "contract" worker is really a full employee that is eligible for overtime. The test for overtime is not whether a person is salaried but rather whether the actual duties qualify a person for an exemption.

Finally, comp time instead of overtime is a huge problem. For example, if a person works 60 hours one week, the employer may offer to let the person have 20 hours off the next week to make up for the "extra" hours. This doesn't work because the 20 extra hours put in the first week are really more like 30 hours when it comes to a paycheck. Furthermore, being "given" time off for "extra" work the previous week isn't a fair trade and doesn't make up for the hours that were actually worked.

The Houston employment attorneys of the Ross Law Group have seen all of the tricks and myths that employers employ to avoid paying overtime to an employee.
Joseph Devine

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