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Employee Overtime: Hours, Pay and Who is Covered

Written by Staff Writer

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 industries:

  • Interstate commerce and those who handle, sell, or work on goods or materials for interstate commerce if the company has over $500.000 in annual dollar volume of business. You can find out more details on companies below that amount on the Wages and Hours Worked: Minimum Wage and Overtime Pay page.
  • 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

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 sector.

On a work week basis, this act 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 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 document.


Some industries and professions are more suited to overtime work, and such employers and employees are exempt from FLSA. 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 seasonal amusement or recreational establishments
  • Certain small newspapers and switchboard operators
  • Seamen employed on 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, seamen on American vessels, 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
  • Farmworkers

For more information regarding specific exemptions, please visit the Fair Labor Standards Act Advisor for exemptions.

Further Reading

In addition to the FLSA requirements, some states have implemented their own hours and overtime laws. The following states require overtime pay for employees who worked over 40 hours in a work week or over eight hours a day: Alaska, Arkansas, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Vermont, Washington, and Wisconsin.

  • California: complies with federal law but also requires 1 1/2 times pay for the first eight hours in the seventh day of a work week. Any hours worked in excess of eight hours on the seventh day or any days that extend past 12 hours require double pay.
  • Colorado: requires that overtime is paid to those who work over twelve hours in a day
  • Kentucky: complies with federal law but requires overtime pay for someone who has worked seven days in a week, and the seventh day will count as overtime pay
  • Minnesota: requires overtime pay for over 48 hours worked a week
  • Rhode Island: requires retail employees to be paid overtime for working on Sundays and holidays.

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.