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What is Overtime Pay?

By Felicia Dye
Updated Jan 21, 2024
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Labor laws commonly determine the number of hours per week that are considered full-time employment. When a person works more hours than this, she may be entitled to wages that are known as overtime pay. These wages are usually higher than those that an employee would receive for her normal hours worked. The payment of overtime wages is normally required by law for certain categories of employees, but there are others who may be excluded from the requirement.

It is common to find that laws require employees to be considered full-time if they work for a specified number of hours on a regular basis. For working those hours, employees are usually paid a certain rate. If they work additional time, employee law commonly requires that they receive overtime pay. The reason that these wages are classified in their own category is because the rate generally increases for this extra labor.

For example, Stacy may live in a place where an employee is considered full time if she works 35 hours per week. Stacy may normally work full time as a paralegal for $15 US Dollars (USD) per hour. There may come a time when Stacy is assisting with several difficult cases that require her to work 50 hours for a few weeks. The additional 15 hours should be subject to overtime pay.

In many cases, overtime pay is also called time and a half. This is because the rates for overtime labor are often one and a half times a person's normal hourly rate. Applying this to Stacy's case, she would be paid $15 USD per hour for 35 hours of work and $22.50 USD per hour for the remaining 15 hours.

Employers do not usually have a choice whether they want to remit overtime pay. They also lack the authority to determine how much money employees should be paid for additional labor. Employee law usually requires that certain employees be paid for overtime, and the law also outlines the method for calculating the rates. When an employee looks at her pay stub, she should find regular wages and overtime pay itemized separately.

Although labor laws can vary from one jurisdiction to another, there are generally some people who do not qualify for overtime pay due to the nature of their work. Common examples include agricultural workers, fishermen, and flight attendants. If an employer violates the law and does not provide overtime pay to an employee who qualifies for it, he may face a stiff penalty.

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Discussion Comments

By SteamLouis — On Aug 01, 2012
@SarahSon-- Wow that's great. I'm glad she has this opportunity. I've yet to work in a job which offers as much overtime as someone wants.

Which other positions/careers, other than nursing, can usually get overtime?

@OeKc05-- I know what you mean. I'm glad that you don't always prefer overtime to your family. overtime pay can definitely be a savior an can help you make ends meet in difficult times. But if it becomes the norm, it can put a strain on family relations.

While I was growing up, my father always preferred working overtime rather than staying home with us. The reason it hurt me so much was because I felt that my parent's salary was enough for our needs. It seemed like my dad was using overtime to spend time out of the house and away from us.

Now that I think about it, I was probably being childish. Making a living is not easy and overtime pay is very attractive since you get even more money for your effort.

By burcinc — On Jul 31, 2012

My employer specifically tells me not to do overtime because they can't afford to pay overtime for their employees.

Sometimes I wonder if overtime pay regulations have been set up to deter employees from over-working. Since many employers are unwilling to pay more to employees who work more than full time and they have no choice about it, they prevent their employees from doing so. Regardless of whether this was the main intention or not, this has been one of the consequences of overtime pay for sure.

I would understand this if we were a country like Japan where people literally work to death. Japanese work up to 80 hours per week and often receive little to no overtime pay in return. But we don't have this issue in the US, so why can't employees have more freedom when it comes to overtime?

By burcidi — On Jul 30, 2012

I'm glad that overtime pay is higher than the regular hourly wage for a position. Because forty hours, which is full time, is usually what people can handle energy and concentration wise. When they have to work more than that, they are losing out on time for rest and time with family. And I think employees should receive higher payment in return.

I know some people choose to work overtime because of financial reasons. So overtime pay is also a good way for employees to make more money during hard times. It also works out for the employer especially if extra help is needed temporarily and they don't want to go through the hiring process for more employees.

By lighth0se33 — On Jul 30, 2012

Overtime pay for salaried employees is available in some businesses. I think that the laws vary from state to state, and the employee has to reach a certain number of overtime hours before the pay kicks in, but I have heard of it.

It just doesn't work for people with jobs that require odd hours and are full of unpredictability, like flight attendants. Think of all the delays and things that can go wrong with flights, and you will see why it wouldn't be prudent for the employer to offer the attendants overtime pay.

I have never been a salaried employee, but it is nice to know that I might be eligible for overtime pay if I ever become one. All of my life, I have held jobs that pay by the hour, and while that has its advantages, being salaried would be so much nicer.

By giddion — On Jul 29, 2012

I work 36 hours a week painting wooden items for a lady who runs a business out of her home. There are no overtime pay requirements, because technically, it's a sort of freelance job.

It's basically just something that I said I would love to do, and she agreed to pay me so much per hour. Even though 36 hours was the agreed upon time I would work per week, we do have busy weeks, especially during the holidays, during which she needs me to work more than that.

It would be nice to get time and a half, but I understand that she is not obligated to give me that. We didn't sign any sort of employment contract, so I'm just here as long as she keeps paying me the regular amount for each hour worked.

By OeKc05 — On Jul 28, 2012

@John57 – It's tough to have to decide between overtime pay and time with your family. I value my time off work so much that if given a choice, I usually choose not to work overtime so that I can be at home.

However, there have been times when my husband and I needed the extra money badly. Then, I requested to work overtime as often as possible. We disliked the time apart, but we knew that financially, it was necessary.

I absolutely loved getting time and a half. It thrilled me to look at my pay stub and see those high dollar amounts listed next to the words “overtime pay.”

By kylee07drg — On Jul 28, 2012

@summing – It is tragic when employers start cutting corners when there is still so much work to be done. You would think that if business was flourishing like that, there should be plenty of money to go around.

Many years ago, I got plenty of overtime. Some days, I even worked 12 hour shifts, when I was supposed to only be working 8 hours.

During these pay periods, I kept calculating my own overtime pay. I didn't want the payroll lady to cheat me out of any, so it was important to me to know exactly how much should be headed my way.

By andee — On Jul 28, 2012

I wouldn't mind being able to get some overtime pay on a regular basis. I work a second job on evenings and weekends for extra money, and would prefer to make this money at my regular job.

If I could work a few extra hours a week and get overtime pay, I wouldn't have to rely on a second job. At my company, they don't allow anyone to work overtime.

The only people who put in extra time are those who are salaried employees, and they get paid the same no matter how many hours they put in.

I am not going to hold my breath waiting for overtime pay. I have worked there for 7 years, and this has always been their policy as long as I have been there.

By myharley — On Jul 27, 2012

My husband is a supervisor for a construction crew, and is paid an hourly wage plus a bonus at the end of the year. I don't understand the overtime pay rules because all of his crew members get paid overtime for every hour over 40 hours.

The employees who are in the same position as him as a supervisor don't get overtime pay. This doesn't make much sense to me. There are many times in the summer when they easily work 50 hours a week.

It seems crazy that his crew members are making more per hour than he is when they are getting their overtime pay and he is just getting his regular wage.

I know this is somehow legal for the company to do this, but it can get pretty frustrating too.

By John57 — On Jul 26, 2012

When I worked at a manufacturing company, there were seasonal periods when we were required to work mandatory overtime. Most of the time we put in an extra 10 - 15 hours of work during this time.

If this was only for a few weeks it wasn't so bad, but if this was extended to 4-5 months, it was harder to do. We did receive time and a half for each hour worked over 40 which was a motivating factor.

While the extra money is always nice, and I planned on using this money for some extras for my family, it also got old being gone that much more during the week.

There always seems to be a trade off somehow. More money in my pocket from overtime pay also meant more time away from my family.

By SarahSon — On Jul 26, 2012

My friend is a nurse at a hospital and she will take as much overtime pay as she can get. Sometimes this is extra work she takes on her floor when others want off, and she has even worked in other areas of the hospital where she is trained.

She counts on this overtime to help her pay all of her bills because her husband is unable to work right now. She gets time and a half when she works over 40 hours a week.

If she works nights or on a holiday she gets even more than that per hour and the extra pay can really add up. As far as I know, she is not limited to the number of overtime hours she can work. She takes advantage of as many of them as she can handle during a week.

By disciples — On Jul 25, 2012

My job has a kind of unique scheduling system. We work 10 hour days, 4 days a week. If there is more work to be done, we come in on Fridays and everyone gets overtime pay. If we are slow, everyone gets a three day weekend. The other four days are kind of long, but I really like this system. It feels like you get rewarded either way.

By summing — On Jul 25, 2012

My company is really strict about limiting overtime pay. They will usually cut you off right at 40 hours, no matter how much work there is to be done. In the five years that I have worked for them I have worked maybe 20 overtime hours.

I can understand that businesses need to control their payroll costs, but the simple fact is that if the work needs to get done it needs to get done. It seems like fear over overtime pay often leads to cutting corners in other parts of the operation.

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