Can You Be Forced To Work Overtime?

Can You Be Forced To Work Overtime

Some employees love working overtime because it means additional pay. Others may resist overtime since it means less time for family, hobbies, and life in general. Whether you want to add some extra hours to your shift or not, the real question is – can your employer force you to work overtime?

In this article, we will talk about what New York Employers may or may not do when it comes to overtime work.

What is Mandatory Overtime?

Before tackling this subject, you first need to understand that 40 working hours a week are just the minimum for full-time employees, not the maximum. Technically, a 40-hour work week is a standard set by the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), which doesn’t put a limit on how many hours an employee can work in a week. However, if an employee works more than 40 hours a week, the FLSA requires that employees get paid time and a half for their overtime work. 

Therefore, mandatory overtime is when an employer makes an employee work more than the standard 40 hours in a work week. An employer has the right to make an employee work overtime without:

  • asking them for their approval
  • checking if they would like to work more hours
  • letting them pick their overtime hours
  • offering it only to employees who want to work more hours
  • telling an employee that it’s okay to refuse to work overtime.

Employers can also fire employees for refusing to work the mandated overtime. New York employers can also discipline, demote, or cut the working hours of employees who refuse to work the mandated extra hours. 

However, what certain employers cannot do is discipline employees who refuse to work on the seventh day of a work week. Employers are violating the labor law if they are coercing or inducing an employee not to take a day of rest. An employee is free to choose not to take a day of rest but must not be coerced.

Another important regulation set by the FLSA is that mandatory overtime work must not create a safety risk for the employees. Safety risks can range from increased tiredness to getting seriously injured on the job. Employees who work long hours can make mistakes or injure themselves or others on the job, so employers must be wary of the negative consequences of mandatory overtime. 

Other negative repercussions of mandatory overtime are:

  • low morale among employees
  • resentment of increased workloads
  • increasing fatigue and stress among the employees
  • employees quitting and taking legal action against the employer

Can You Refuse to Work Mandatory Overtime?

In most cases, an employee cannot refuse to work mandatory overtime just because they don’t want to. They may be subjected to discipline or terminated if they refuse to comply. 

Nevertheless, there are several instances when firing an employee who refused to work mandatory overtime is considered illegal. These instances are:

  • When the overtime breaches a contract
  • When overtime work creates a health or safety hazard
  • When employees are not paid for their overtime work according to federal and state law
  • Family emergencies protected under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA).

What are the Mandatory Overtime Exemptions?

Some exemptions regulate or prohibit mandatory overtime. These are when:

  • Employees work for a company that is not engaged in interstate commerce
  • Exempt employees are not mandated to work overtime by federal law but have state laws that regulate overtime
  • Employers with employees protected by the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) are required to modify their employee’s scheduled mandatory overtime to reasonably accommodate their disability.

Pay for Mandatory Overtime

To be qualified for overtime pay, a person must be a non-exempt employee, meaning they are entitled to minimum wage and overtime pay if they work more than 40 hours in a work week. Non-exempt employees are typically paid by the hour or earn a wage that is less than a minimum determined by the Department of Labor. Non-exempt employees are, among others, contractors, servers, freelancers, and retail associates. 

There are a couple of exceptions to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), where employees are not paid for their mandatory overtime work. Some examples are:

  • Sales workers who work on commission
  • Seasonal or recreational workers
  • Computer professionals who earn a minimum of $27.60 per hour
  • Mechanics and service members at car dealerships
  • Drivers
  • Farm workers
  • Administrative, professional, executive, and outside sales employees who are paid a salary.

Another exception where the FLSA law may not apply is for employees working under a union contract or another type of employment contract. In such a case, the employer must comply with the terms of the collective bargaining agreement. If the employer fails to adhere to the terms of the agreement regarding mandatory overtime, they will breach the contract, which can subject them to a civil lawsuit.

Can You Negotiate Mandatory Overtime?

Highly valued workers may be able to negotiate the terms with their employer to avoid or schedule working overtime. Consider talking with your employer about your options in a confidential setting and mention all your concerns, like family obligations, child care, prior commitments, extracurricular activities, or health concerns that might make it difficult for you to work overtime. Depending on your situation, you might be able to come to a solution that works for both of you.


If you have been working mandatory overtime and you’ve not been adequately compensated for your work, there are a number of steps you can take to mend the situation and ensure that you receive the overtime pay that is due to you. If you feel comfortable doing so, talk to your employer. Unfortunately, some companies, especially large businesses, often try to take advantage of their workers to save money.

If this is your situation, or you are concerned about confronting your employer about the fact that you have not received your overtime pay or that it could create a conflict between the two of you, we advise you to talk with an experienced employment lawyer. A professional and skilled attorney representing you will help you reach an acceptable agreement with your employer.

To find out whether you have a case worth pursuing, feel free to contact Cilenti & Cooper today. We treat every case with the attention and care it deserves and can fight for your rights from beginning to end. We offer a free consultation to all of our prospective clients, so you have nothing to lose.



Let us fight to recover the wages you have earned.

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