Understanding Overtime Laws: A Guide for Employers

By Laura Davis, SPHR, SHRM-SCP

In the complex world of employment law, navigating overtime regulations is crucial for both employers and employees. In this article we will discuss Federal overtime laws, emphasizing employer obligations, calculating overtime pay, common violations, seeking legal guidance, and ensuring compliance.

What Are Federal Overtime Laws?

The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) regulates overtime pay. According to the FLSA, non-exempt employees must be compensated at one and a half times their regular rate of pay for any hours worked beyond 40 in a workweek.

Do all States follow the FLSA?

Many States, including Texas, follow the FLSA; however, there are some States and Cities that have laws which provide greater benefits than the FLSA. It is important to verify the laws in the area where the employee is working to ensure compliance.

Ensuring Proper Compensation

Employers are obligated to compensate non-exempt employees with overtime pay for any hours worked over 40 in a workweek. This requirement applies to both hourly and some salaried employees, depending on their job duties and compensation structure.

Determining Exempt vs. Non-Exempt Status

Eligibility for overtime pay hinges on whether an employee is classified as exempt or non-exempt. This classification is determined by the nature of the employee’s job duties and their compensation, not merely their job title. Accurate, thorough, job descriptions are key to determining an employee’s eligibility for overtime pay.

Protecting the Exempt Status

When an employee is exempt from overtime pay, salary reductions are allowable only in very limited circumstances. If improper deductions are made from an exempt employee’s pay, the employer may cause the employee to be entitled to overtime pay when they otherwise were not.  Employers should ensure their Employee Handbook contains a procedure for employees to report improper deductions and a method by which errors will be corrected.


Maintaining accurate records of all hours worked by employees is essential. These records provide crucial evidence in the event of a dispute or audit, ensuring compliance with overtime laws.

Calculating Overtime Pay

For non-exempt employees working more than 40 hours in a week, overtime pay is calculated at 1.5 times their regular hourly rate. The regular rate of pay includes all earnings (such as commissions and bonuses) averaged over the hours worked in that week.

Calculating overtime pay can become complex, especially when bonuses or other incentives are involved. Employers should consult the Department of Labor Wage and Hour Division for detailed guidelines on these calculations.

Compensatory Time

In the private sector, compensatory time (comp time) instead of overtime pay is generally not allowed.

Consequences of Non-Compliance

Employers who fail to adhere to overtime laws can face serious consequences, including:

  • Lawsuits or legal actions from employees.
  • Investigations by the Department of Labor.
  • Payment of back wages and liquidated damages.
  • Fines and penalties.
  • Damage to the company’s reputation.


Understanding and complying with Federal overtime laws is essential for both the fair treatment of employees and the protection of employers from legal risks. By staying informed, maintaining accurate records, and conducting regular audits, employers can ensure they meet their obligations under these laws. If you have any questions or need further guidance, don’t hesitate to reach out to us.

How can we help you

Our team is ready

Whether you are navigating complex workforce challenges, exploring innovative HR solutions, or seeking guidance on the latest technological advancements in the field, we invite you to reach out to us.

Our team of experts is here to answer your questions, provide insights, and tailor solutions to meet your unique needs. At Ignite HR, we prioritize your success and are eager to collaborate on strategies that elevate your human resources practices.

Don’t hesitate—reach out today and let’s ignite the path to HR excellence together.

Email us here or give us a call

Get in touch with us