Frequently Asked Unpaid Overtime Questions

FLSA and Ohio Unpaid Overtime Wages Attorneys

Are you wondering whether you are not getting paid properly by your employer under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA)? If so, below are a number of responses to frequently asked questions and/or myths that might help address your situation as it relates to your wages. If your situation is similar to any of the topics below, you should consider speaking with one of the Columbus, Ohio or Toledo, Ohio FLSA unpaid overtime wages attorneys at Bryant Legal, LLC to discuss your specific situation in more detail. We will determine whether you are owed unpaid wages and evaluate the best course of action. Contact us today for a free initial phone consultation.

Are employees entitled to mandatory work breaks or meal periods?

  • No. With the exception of truck drivers and minors, employees do not have a legal entitlement to any breaks during the work day, including lunch and other meal breaks. However, if you are working through lunch and still receive deductions for meal periods, then you should still be paid for that time.

Employees who perform work during their unpaid lunch do not have to be paid.

  • False. In order for a lunch/meal break to be unpaid, the break must be 20 minutes or more and the employee must be “completely relieved” of all work during the break. Any work performed by the employee during an “unpaid” lunch break transforms the break into a paid break. This is true even if the employee performs the work “voluntarily” or “without authorization.”
  • Do you suspect that you are performing other off-the-clock work? If so, please review common off-the-clock work that you should be paid for here.

My employer requires its employees to “clock out” for all breaks and all breaks are unpaid.

  • False. This myth results in off-the-clock work, which you should be paid for. According to FLSA regulations, only breaks of 20 minutes or more can be unpaid. Consequently, any breaks of less than 20 minutes must be paid. It does not matter if the employer has required the employee to “clock out” for the duration of the break. If the break was for less than 20 minutes, the employee must be paid for the time (even though his or her time card indicates no work during that time period).
  • Do you suspect that you are performing other off-the-clock work? If so, please review common off-the-clock work that you should be paid for here.

An employee who works unauthorized overtime is not entitled to overtime pay.

  • False. You should still be paid overtime even if it was not authorized!
  • To provide context, consider this scenario:  Bob asks his boss if he can work on Saturday to get caught up in his work. Bob’s boss says no because he does not want to pay him overtime wages. Bob instead disregards his boss’s decision and works 12 hours of overtime on Saturday. When Bob’s boss finds out, he is upset and accuses Bob of insubordination. Due to the insubordination, the boss refuses to pay Bob for the overtime work because it was “not authorized.”  In this scenario, should Bob still be paid?  YES. Bob’s boss has violated the FLSA. The employee must be paid for all hours worked, even unauthorized hours. Although the employer could still discipline or possibly terminate the employee, it cannot simply withhold pay.

All salaried employees are exempt.

  • False. If you work more than 40 hours in a workweek, you should be paid overtime unless you are specifically exempt under the FLSA. Paying an employee on a salaried basis is only one requirement of the FLSA’s white collar exemptions. If the employee’s job fails to satisfy all of the duties requirements of the exemption, the employee will not be exempt and will be entitled to overtime for all hours worked in excess of 40 in a work week. For example, paying a clerical employee a salary does not make the employee exempt from the FLSA’s overtime requirements because a clerical employee’s job duties do not fall under any exemption under the FLSA.
  • For a more in-depth discussion on whether or not you have been misclassified, click here.

My employer told me that my job title dictates exempt status.

  • False. If you work more than 40 hours in a workweek, you should be paid overtime unless you are specifically exempt under the FLSA. Simply inserting the word “supervisor,” “executive,” or “manager” into an employee’s job title does not make the employee “exempt” from the overtime provisions of the FLSA (e.g.  Assistant Manager, Shift Supervisor, Executive Assistant, Custodial Manager, Environmental Specialist).
  • For example, in order to qualify for the FLSA’s executive exemption, the employee must meet all of the requirement for the exemption:  (1) guaranteed salary of at least $455 per week; (2) primary duty is managing the employer or a customarily recognized department or subdivision of the employer; (3) the employee regularly supervises two or more full-time employees or their equivalent; and (4) the employee has the authority to hire/fire, or the employee’s recommendations in this regard are given particular weight by management.
  • For more information on whether you have been misclassified, click here.

Employees who prefer time off instead of overtime can be given compensatory time off in lieu of overtime pay.

  • False. There is no such thing as compensatory time off in the private sector. Thus, the FLSA requires an employee to be paid for the overtime hours. For example, an employee who works 8 hours of overtime this week cannot be given time off with pay for 8 or 12 hours next week. The employee must be paid for the overtime hours. Overtime earned in week one cannot be erased in week two by providing compensatory time off.
    • caveat:  Flexible work schedules. Work schedules can be manipulated in the same work week in order to avoid overtime pay (i.e., Monday through Thursday, the employee works 38 hours; the employer can instruct the employee to work only two hours on Friday to avoid overtime).
  • What about public employees?
    • While public sector employers are able to substitute compensatory time off for overtime pay, private sector employers cannot.

Subsequent to exhausting paid leave, the salary of an exempt employee can be docked when the employee comes in late or leaves early due to sickness or personal reasons.

  • False. An employer can never dock an alleged exempt employee’s salary for partial day absences (unless the absence is FMLA-qualifying). If you are paid on a salaried basis and your pay is docked, then your employer has likely misclassified you.
  • The only permissible deductions from an exempt employee’s salary are for:  (1) full day absences after the employee has exhausted all available paid leave; (2) infractions of safety rules of major significance; (3) disciplinary suspensions of one or more full days for violation of workplace conduct rules; (4) pro rata adjustments for the first and last week of employment; and (5) unpaid leave pursuant to the FMLA. Consequently, if an exempt employee has exhausted all available paid leave, arrives to work at 8 am, and leaves work at 8:30 am because of sickness (that is not FMLA-qualifying), the employer cannot deduct any amount from the employee’s weekly salary because this was not a full day absence.

Employees are entitled to be paid for accrued but unused vacation, sick time, or PTO upon the termination of employment.

  • False. The FLSA does not require employers to pay out accrued but unused vacation, sick time, or PTO upon termination of employment.  In Ohio, this issue is dictated by policy and/or practice. Whether or not an employee will be paid for unused vacation, sick time, or PTO will only be determined by the applicable employer policies. To that end, employers can insert various provisions that govern payment of unused vacation, sick time, or PTO. For example, “upon the termination of employment, employees will not be paid for any accrued, but unused leave (vacation, sick, PTO).  Additionally, employers can condition the payment of such accrued but unused leave upon the employee satisfying certain conditions (e.g. appropriate notice of termination, no-fault termination, etc.).

If your situation is similar to any of the myths above, contact an Ohio and FLSA attorney at Bryant Legal, LLC. We are happy to determine whether you may be entitled to unpaid wages and overtime wages at no cost to you. If you wait too long, you may be unable to recover the past wages you were wrongfully denied.

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