The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) from the US Department of Labor states that every hour worked over 40 in a workweek counts as an overtime hour. This federal overtime regulation applies to all employees who are non-exempt from overtime pay, and the state of New York enforces it. However, many wonder if there is an upper limit to how much overtime you can legally work in NYC.
The most common questions are whether your employer can mandate overtime work and if they can fire you if you refuse to perform this overtime work. The short answers are that yes, they legally can require you to work overtime, and yes, they can also legally fire you if you refuse to do that work.
That being said, the US Labor Laws are far from simple, and there are some details you should learn to have a better understanding of your rights and your employer’s responsibilities.
Federal Overtime Laws
The Fair Labor Standards Act is a federal law that sets the foundation for minimum wage and overtime work regulations across the country. The FLSA is a starting point from which different states, municipalities, and cities can develop their own employment laws if they choose to do so. They can add more protection to their workers, but they cannot take away that assigned by the FLSA.
Under this law, there is no maximum number of hours that an employee can legally work in a single workday or workweek. However, for every hour above 40 in a workweek, their employer must pay them 1.5 times their regular rate of pay.
The FLSA also divides employees into two major categories: exempt and nonexempt employees. An exempt employee doesn’t qualify for minimum wage and doesn’t have the right to overtime hourly rates. Overtime exemptions include administrative exemptions, professional, computer, and executive exemptions, and outside salespeople. To find out whether you are exempt or nonexempt, you have to look at your weekly salary and the primary duties you’re performing at your job.
Employees who are exempt from overtime receive no less than $684 per week and have specific job duties according to the Department of Labor’s regulations.
Some states, such as New York, categorize certain occupations as nonexempt even though they are exempt under the FLSA.
New York Overtime Law
Even though the FLSA doesn’t limit the number of hours an employee can work in a week, the New York State Labor Law does regulate mandatory overtime, including compulsory overtime for nurses and other healthcare workers.
Mandatory overtime is the number of overtime hours your employer requires you to do. For some nonexempt occupations, such as white-collar employees, there is no cap to how many hours a week they can work overtime as long as they are appropriately compensated for it.
In contrast, New York Labor Laws provide additional protections to manual labor workers and healthcare workers to regulate their mandatory overtime.
One Day Rest in Seven
The One Day Rest in Seven is part of the New York law that states specific occupations require a rest period of 24 consecutive hours (one whole day) in a workweek. These occupations include employees working in factories, hotels, restaurants, mercantile establishments, freight or passenger elevators, places in which motion pictures are shown, farmworkers, domestic workers, etc.
The number of hours employees in these occupations work in a day isn’t limited – even if they have the right to one day of rest in seven, they can still work more than 40 hours a week. And if they do, the law requires their employers to pay them for overtime.
Nurse Mandatory Overtime
In 1999, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) published a report under the title To Err is Human: Building a Safer Health System. This report declared that possibly as many as 98,000 people lose their lives every year due to medical errors.
The incidence of medical errors significantly increases when healthcare professionals are overworked and tired. This is one reason why several US states, including New York, introduced mandatory overtime regulations for nurses.
Nurses are often required to work twelve or sixteen consecutive hours, sometimes with very little notice beforehand. This amount of work leads to an increased risk of medical errors, decreased quality of care, and job dissatisfaction on the nurse’s part. It may also cause a nurse to lose their license because of the medical errors they commit due to mental and physical fatigue.
New York Overtime Laws cover professional nurses and licensed practical nurses who provide patient care or work for specific healthcare employers. Mandatory overtime regulations prohibit nurses from working more than the number of scheduled and predetermined hours they’ve agreed to work in a week.
This law doesn’t only apply to nurses in hospitals. Those working in outpatient clinics, diagnostic centers, nursing homes, rehabilitation hospitals, adult day healthcare programs, residential facilities, and others are also protected.
The only time a healthcare employer can require a nurse to work overtime is when there is a patient care emergency.
Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration
The FMCSA is a federal body that regulates the safety of commercial motor vehicles. It defines the number of hours that truck and bus drivers can work in a day or workweek.
For example, property-carrying drivers may drive 11 hours at most after a 10 consecutive hour break. Passenger-carrying drivers may drive 10 hours at most after 8 straight hours off duty. Neither of these groups of drivers is allowed to drive for more than 60 hours in seven consecutive days.
The regulations provided by the FMCSA aren’t specific to New York and apply to all states. However, if you are a truck or a bus driver, you should also be familiar with your rights and how many consecutive hours you are allowed to drive without taking a more extended rest period.
Frequently Asked Questions
- Is working for longer than 8 hours a day considered overtime?
In some states, there is a daily limit of regular hours an employee can work. Every hour above 8 worked in a single day (24 consecutive hours) is considered overtime work.
However, the New York State Labor Law does not enforce this regulation. If an employee works a 12-hour shift, as long as they are under the ’40 hours per week’ limit, they are paid their regular hourly rate.
- Are salaried employees entitled to overtime pay?
A common misconception is that employees who receive a fixed salary and are not paid by the hour cannot be paid for overtime work. There are actually many examples of salaried employees who are non-exempt from overtime and who must be paid their overtime rate for every hour worked over 40 in a workweek.
- What is a workweek?
A workweek is a period of 168 consecutive hours – seven 24-hour periods. Calendar weeks and workweeks are not the same. A workweek may align with a calendar week, but it doesn’t have to be the case.
Employees in different organizations and even employees within the same organization but with different duties can have different workweeks.
One employee must have a fixed workweek that has been previously scheduled and known in advance. The start of a workweek cannot change from one week to the next for the same employee.
All employees are entitled to overtime pay for all hours worked over 40 in a workweek. For most occupations, neither do federal labor laws nor the New York Labor Standards provide a maximum number of hours for an employee to work.
The exceptions to this overtime rule are blue-collar workers who are required to have one day of rest in seven and nurses who are prohibited from working more than the number of hours a week they’ve agreed to work. Truck and bus drivers have specific consecutive numbers of hours in a day and week that they can drive without rest.
The FLSA demands that nonexempt employees receive overtime pay for their overtime work. Regardless of how many hours they work in a week – every hour over 40 should be paid 1.5 times the regular rate of pay. If the employer mandates their employees to work overtime, they still need to pay the proper overtime provisions.
Overtime law violations are one of the most common violations of labor law. There are several ways an employer can illegally withhold overtime pay you’ve worked hard for. Informing yourself about your rights and what you can do in that case is crucial to receiving overtime pay.
If you need legal advice or wish to better understand overtime wages in NYC, Cilenti & Cooper is at your service. Contact us with any questions you may have, and we’ll be glad to help.