Should You Work Overtime for Your Salaried Job?

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If you are a salaried employee making a set amount for the year, you may wonder how to handle requests to work beyond your standard hours. Can your manager ask you to work on a weekend because of a company conference? What about urgent projects that require you to work for more than 40 hours a week? 

These types of requests for overtime hours are not uncommon. In a survey from Jobvite, nearly 50% of respondents said their company expected them to work nights or weekends. However, most employees surveyed would prefer not to be working as much, as they believe that “a reasonable average workweek should be between 30-40 hours.” 

If you are one of the many Americans working extra hours in your salaried job, are you eligible for overtime pay? And should you work overtime? 

Who Is Eligible for Overtime Pay?

The first thing you should know is that there are some legal guidelines concerning overtime pay

Updated rules from the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) about eligibility for overtime pay went into effect on January 1, 2020. As a result, employees who make $684 per week or less (or $35,568 per year) are eligible for overtime pay. The DOL states that overtime is one and one-half times (time and a half) regular pay, but your company can choose to pay a higher overtime rate. 

It’s important to note that not all workers are eligible for overtime pay. The DOL lists three reasons why people might be exempt from the federal Fair Labor Standards Act’s (FLSA) overtime rules: 

  1. Earning a predetermined, fixed salary that doesn’t change with either the quality or quantity of your work (salary basis test)
  2. Being paid over the salary level, which is $684 per week or $35,568 per year (salary level test)
  3. Performing executive, administrative, or professional duties—for instance, if you manage other employees, you might not be eligible for overtime (duties test)

In addition, some categories of workers—including some computer professionals, outside salespeople, and administrators—are exempt from overtime, per the DOL guidelines. If your state’s law is different from federal law, then whichever law is more advantageous to employees is applied. 

What Should You Do If You Think You’re Owed Overtime Pay? 

If you believe you meet the criteria to be paid overtime and you have been working 40+ hours a week without getting paid time and a half, one option is to reach out to your supervisor or human resources department to alert them to the situation. 

It is possible that they are unaware of the problem. Or, further review of your hours or job specification may reveal that you are not eligible for overtime.

If that is not successful—or if you are not comfortable having this conversation with your employer—you can reach out to your state or local DOL office. Another option is to file a complaint against your employer. Be aware that employers cannot legally retaliate against or fire you for doing so. 

What If You’re Not Eligible for Overtime Pay?

Let’s say you’re not eligible for overtime pay, but you’re asked to work extra hours. Maybe you make just over the threshold, or you work in one of the other non-eligible categories. What are your options? 

First, you should know that with some exceptions, employers can make you work overtime. From a legal standpoint, this means your employer can say, “You’ll need to come in this Saturday” even if you have already worked over 40 hours that week. 

That said, if you have a good relationship with your employer, you might be able to say no and note that you aren’t available at that time without negative consequences. 

Here are some other steps to take if you are working overtime: 

Check Your Company Policy

First, look in the company intranet if there is an overtime policy, or in your employee manual for information on it. You can also reach out to your human resources department. At some companies, it’s standard to offer “comp” time if a person has to work on a weekend or work late hours. 

Talk to Your Supervisor

Sometimes, a manager may pile on a lot of work without realizing or acknowledging that it’s more than can reasonably be done in a day. If you are working well past the time when others leave work, make sure that your supervisor is aware of it. They may respond by lightening your load. 

Consider Asking for a Raise

If you are regularly working overtime and do not feel that your compensation is properly aligned with the hours you’re putting in, let your manager know. Often, it’s cheaper for companies to give a current employee a raise than to go through the time-consuming process of recruiting and training a new employee. When you request a bonus or raise, come prepared. It can help to make a list of how many hours you’ve been working lately. 

Should You Work Overtime as a Salaried Employee? 

There are some potential benefits to working overtime even if you are not compensated for it. 

Putting in extra hours to finish a big project or showing up when the store is understaffed will be appreciated by your manager and the company. Of course, you can’t take appreciation to the bank. But it does help support your case if you are seeking a promotion or raise. 

Sometimes, you may find that you need to work overtime because the standard workday is jam-packed with meetings and distractions. The quiet time at the start or end of the day can be productive. 

If this situation arises, it may be helpful to connect with your manager. Perhaps you can eliminate some of those meetings and use that time to take care of your day-to-day work.

Be aware that working overtime can have detrimental effects including injuries, weight gain, and other negative health issues according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Plus, those extra hours in the office or that additional shift during the week are not necessarily going to lead to your best performance; Feeling fatigued or worn down is not a good recipe for productivity. 

The Bottom Line

If working overtime is optional, weigh the pros and cons carefully. If it’s not optional and you are not compensated for it, take some time to consider whether you should stay in the job or seek out a new role.

The information contained in this article is not legal advice and is not a substitute for such advice. State and federal laws change frequently, and the information in this article may not reflect your own state’s laws or the most recent changes to the law.

Article Sources

  1. Jobvite. “2019 Job Seeker Nation Survey: The Strength of the Job Market is One-Sided.” Accessed May 4, 2020.

  2.  U.S. Department of Labor. "Final Rule: Overtime Update." Accessed May 4, 2020.

  3. U.S. Department of Labor. "Highlights of the Final Rule on Overtime Eligibility for White Collar Employees." Accessed May 4, 2020.

  4. U.S. Department of Labor. "Fact Sheet #17A: Exemption for Executive, Administrative, Professional, Computer & Outside Sales Employees Under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA)." Accessed May 4, 2020.

  5. U.S. Department of Labor, Wage and Hour Division. "Fact Sheet # 77A: Prohibiting Retaliation Under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA)." Accessed May 4, 2020. 

  6. Talent Management & HR. "Retaining Talent Is More Cost Effective Than Hiring." Accessed May 4, 2020.