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Debunking the Myth: Understanding Overtime Pay Beyond the 8-Hour Workday

Feb 27, 2024 - Blog by

February 27, 2024 – James C. Spencer

In the realm of U.S. employment law, misconceptions about overtime pay abound. One of the most prevalent myths is the belief that working more than 8 hours in a day automatically triggers overtime compensation. However, the reality is far more nuanced, and it’s crucial for both employers and employees to understand the true parameters of overtime compensation.

Let’s begin by dissecting the myth. The idea that working more than 8 hours in a day mandates overtime pay stems from a misunderstanding of overtime laws in certain jurisdictions. While some states and localities do indeed require employers to pay overtime for hours worked beyond 8 in a single day, this is by no means a universal standard. In fact, in many jurisdictions, including at the federal level in the United States, overtime pay is primarily based on the total number of hours worked in an established 7-day workweek, not on a daily basis.

The workweek, as defined by the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), is a recurring period of 168 hours or seven consecutive 24-hour periods. Unlike the conventional Monday-to-Friday workweek, the FLSA’s definition allows employers flexibility in setting the start and end times of the workweek. Once established, the workweek remains consistent for overtime calculation purposes.

Under the FLSA, non-exempt employees are entitled to overtime pay at a rate of one and a half times their regular rate of pay for all hours worked beyond 40 in a workweek. Importantly, this calculation is based on the aggregate hours worked during the entire workweek, irrespective of how those hours are distributed across individual days. This means that an employee who works 10 hours a day for four days in a week would not be entitled to overtime pay under the FLSA, as long as their total hours for the week do not exceed 40.

However, it’s important to note that overtime laws can vary significantly depending on the jurisdiction and may be subject to additional regulations at the state or local level. Some states, such as California and Colorado, do mandate overtime pay for hours worked beyond a certain threshold in a single day, commonly known as daily overtime. Employers and employees should be aware of these state-specific regulations to ensure compliance.

In addition, certain industries or professions may be subject to specific overtime regulations or exemptions. For example, employees in healthcare, transportation, or public safety sectors often operate under different overtime rules due to the nature of their work. Furthermore, unionized employers may be required to pay more overtime than the law requires under the terms of their collective bargaining agreements.

In conclusion, while the myth that working more than 8 hours in a day automatically entitles employees to overtime pay may persist, the reality is more complex. Overtime pay is primarily determined based on the total hours worked in a workweek in most jurisdictions, with additional considerations such as daily overtime thresholds and industry-specific regulations. Employers and employees alike must educate themselves about overtime laws and rights to ensure compliance and fairness in the workplace.

If you have any questions about overtime or other wage and hour issues, please do not hesitate to contact our employment law attorneys at 316-267-2000.

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