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Employee Overtime: Hours, Pay and Who is Covered

Written by Staff Writer

Employee Overtime:  Hours, Pay and Who is Covered

The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) states that any work over 40 hours in a 168 hour period is counted as overtime, since the average American work week is 40 hours - that's eight hours per day for five days a week. However, many employees work unusual shifts and go above and beyond this standard, putting in more than the average 40 hours. These are a few things you should know about hours and overtime labor laws.

Extended and Unusual Shifts

Presently, no OSHA standard to regulate extended and unusual shifts in the workplace exists. A work period of eight consecutive hours over five days with at least eight hours of rest in between shifts defines a standard shift. Any shift that goes beyond this standard is considered to be extended or unusual.

Emergency situations, times of business transition, and when resources are scarce often require longer shifts. Such shifts usually come without warning and can take their toll on the health, safety, and productivity of employees.

Who Is Covered

The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) covers employees in the following occupations or workplaces:

  • Hospitals
  • Institutions engaged in caring for the sick, aged, disabled or mentally ill
  • Schools for mentally ill, disabled or gifted children
  • Preschools
  • Elementary schools
  • Secondary schools
  • Higher education institutions
  • Federal, state and local government agencies
  • Day workers
  • Housekeepers
  • Chauffeurs
  • Cooks
  • Full-time babysitters

Many of the examples above are covered because the FLSA provides enterprise coverage to businesses with more than two employees and an annual dollar volume of at least $500,000 in sales or business.

The law also provides individual coverage for non-enterprise employees whose work often involves interstate commerce. Examples of interstate commerce include:

  • Producing goods that are shipped out of state
  • Making regular phone calls to people in other states
  • Handling interstate transaction records
  • Traveling out of state for work
  • Performing janitorial work where the produced goods will be shipped out of state.

It's important to note that some roles are exempt from FLSA coverage, which affects overtime eligibility. More information on who is eligible for overtime pay can be found on the Department of Labor website.

Overtime Pay

For adult employees, there is no legal limit to the number of hours that one can work per week, but the Fair Labor Standards Act dictates standards for overtime pay in both the private and public sectors.

On a work-week basis, the FLSA requires employers to pay a wage of 1 1/2 times an employee's normal pay rate after that employee has completed 40 hours of work for workers 16 and over. Weekend or night work does not apply for overtime pay unless it is over the mandated 40 hours.

Pay for vacations, sick days or personal days is not covered. FLSA does not cover double time. Those are agreements between an employer and an employee. However, the government offers "Interpretive Guidance" towards such agreements, which changes depending on the geography, nature of the work and other job factors. The page also includes E-tools to help employers calculate overtime pay.

The same rules do not always apply to minors. For more information on minor specific hours and wage restrictions, visit our Child Labor Laws article.

In addition to the FLSA requirements, some states have implemented their own laws related to hours worked and overtime. The DOL website explains state-specific overtime laws.


Some industries and professions are more suited to overtime work, and certain employees are exempt from FLSA coverage. For example, doctors, nurses, policemen and firefighters frequently work long shifts and are often excluded from earning overtime pay.

Employees can become administratively exempt by accepting a flat salary for a job that requires working extended hours. A list of commonly used exemptions can be found on the U.S. Department of Labor Fair Labor Standards Act Advisor's website.

The following employees are exempt from overtime pay requirements and are also listed on the United States Department of Labor's website:

  • Executive, administrative and professional employees
  • Outside sales employees
  • Certain skilled computer professionals
  • Certain employees of seasonal amusement or recreational establishments
  • Certain small newspapers and switchboard operators
  • Seamen employed on American or foreign vessels
  • Employees engaged in fishing operations
  • Employees engaged in newspaper delivery
  • Farm workers employed on small farms
  • Casual babysitters
  • Certain commissioned employees of retail or service establishments
  • Auto, truck, trailer, farm, implement, boat or aircraft salespersons employed by non-manufacturing establishments
  • Auto, truck or farm implement parts clerks and mechanics employed by non-manufacturing establishments primarily engaged in selling these items to ultimate purchasers
  • Railroad and air carrier employees, taxi drivers, certain employees of motor carriers and local delivery employees paid on approved trip rate plans
  • Announcers, news editors and chief engineers of certain non-metropolitan broadcasting stations
  • Domestic service workers who reside in their employers' residences
  • Employees of motion picture theaters

This list is not all-inclusive. While these roles are commonly exempt from overtime, that is not determined by job title alone. For an exemption to apply, the employee's specific job duties and salary must meet specific regulatory requirements.

Further Reading

To learn more about overtime work and pay, read OSHA's Extended Unusual Work Shifts page, where you can also learn about the health and safety hazards associated with long work hours to minimize risks for yourself or your employees.

For more information regarding overtime pay, you can visit the Wage and hour Division Overtime Pay website.