Guarding Against Unauthorized Overtime

locks-332093_1280An employer is frustrated because employees are working overtime and ignoring the employer’s request not to do so.  Here’s how the employer describes the situation:

Q. “I have a recurring problem regarding employees working overtime.  Some employees will arrive early, stay late or maybe take a short lunch break.  I have told them I do not want them to work more than 40 hours.

“I even issued a memo telling my employees unless overtime was authorized in advance it would not be paid.  Nothing keeps this problem from reoccurring.  The surprising part is, the employees who do this are some of my best employees.  How do I avoid this unwanted overtime?”

A. Top notch employees are among the most frequent abusers of overtime, working overtime without pay.

Their dedication may seem commendable, but never allow employees to perform work without paying them.  Never allow non-exempt employees to perform overtime work without paying them overtime pay.

Why do some employees want to keep on working even after they’ve put in 40 hours of work?  Most fall into one of three groups: Those who want a fatter pay check, those who want bosses and supervisors to realize their dedication and those who are never totally satisfied until the job is done.

Whatever the motivation, the rules remain the same.  For non-exempt employees, any time worked beyond 40 hours in a workweek must be compensated at the rate of one and one-half times the employee’s regular rate of pay.  Some states require overtime pay on time worked over eight hours in a day.

Who has responsibility to see that time is accurately reported?  The employer.  And that’s not all.  If timekeeping records are lacking or incomplete, an employee’s recollection of the number of hours worked can be sufficient to win a claim for unpaid overtime.

What to consider. Here are some points to consider if you want to avoid paying for unauthorized overtime:

  1. Make sure your managers and supervisors are aware of the crucial need for them to know if employees are reporting their time exactly.
  2. Do not allow anyone in your company to pressure or even encourage employees to arrive early or stay late and not report the extra time at work.
  3. Change your seven-day workweek, if there are some days more than others in your current workweek when employees are putting in their overtime hours.  If this is the case, change your seven-day workweek so the days the employees most often work overtime are at the beginning of the seven-day workweek. For Example: Employees currently work Monday through Friday in a seven-day workweek running Sunday through Saturday.  They work most of their overtime on the two busiest workdays, Thursday and Friday.  Change the seven-day workweek (for purposes of determining overtime) to start on Thursday and run through the following Wednesday.  Then, when employees work longer hours at the beginning of the workweek (Thursday and Friday) supervisors can make sure the employees leave work earlier on days later in the workweek (on Tuesday and Wednesday).  Note: This strategy is not effective in states requiring overtime pay for any hours over eight worked in a day.
  4. Make sure no employees are taking work home, unless they are paid for this work.
  5. Include a strong statement in your handbook telling non-exempt employees they are not to work beyond their regular hours unless authorized.  Attach disciplinary action for those who fail to comply.


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