Have a general question about employment law? Want to share a story? I welcome all comments and questions. I can't give legal advice here about specific situations but will be glad to discuss general issues and try to point you in the right direction. If you need legal advice, contact an employment lawyer in your state. Remember, anything you post here will be seen publicly, and I will comment publicly on it. It will not be confidential. Govern yourself accordingly. If you want to communicate with me confidentially as Donna Ballman, Florida lawyer rather than as Donna Ballman, blogger, my firm's website is here.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

10 Tricks Employers Use To Cheat Workers Out Of Overtime

Most employees are entitled to be paid overtime for any hours worked over 40 in one week (and no, your employer can't average two or more weeks together). Unless you work for a tiny and purely local employer, or fall within a specific exemption, your employer is legally required to pay you time and a half for all overtime worked. But some employers, in an attempt to cut costs, are using tricks to avoid paying overtime. As reported by AOL Jobs and USA Today, the number of lawsuits filed by employees alleging that they were owed overtime pay is skyrocketing; there was a 32 percent increase last year, compared to 2008.

As an employment attorney, I've seen lots of maneuvers, but below are the 10 most common tactics that I've seen employers use to cheat workers out of their hard-earned overtime pay:

To read more, see my article on AOL Jobs.


  1. Hi Donna,

    Great post as usual! More ways to cheat on OT include: not including performance bonus pay when calculating the regular hourly rate, otherwise known as "shaving the rate." Also common, forcing employees to charge their vacation bank (even if they don't take time off) so that hours recorded as worked stay under the 40 hour threshhold. And there's comp time, which you may have mentioned. Comp time is especially common at smaller companies, where company owners often claim they can't afford to pay overtime, and offer comp time instead. If you get 1.5 hours of time off for every 1 hour of OT you worked, it's a pretty fair trade (but probably still illegal in CA, WA, MA, NJ, NY and a few other states).

    If you don't get paid all of your OT, you are very likely being cheated in other ways, too. Pay statement violations (not including required info on your paycheck stubs), pay schedule violations (if you don't have regular pay days, or your pay date is more than the allowed number of days after the end of the pay period, etc.) and vacation pay computation volations are all frequently found when an employee isn't being paid OT properly.

    I really don't understand how wage & hour violations are so rampant. Wage claims are easy to bring and easier to prove. They're the low hanging fruit of employment litigation. In CA, you don't even have to get class certification to bring class wage claims. EPL insurers refuse to cover wage & hour damages at all anymore, because the likelihood if getting sued and losing is so high. Liability exposure is real, and in some cases personal liabilty and even criminal penalties can attach. Aside from the immorality of not paying people fairly for their work, is it really worth the risk, just to save a few bucks??

  2. Hi Susan. There are so many ways employees get ripped off. Thanks for your additional explanation.


I appreciate your comments and general questions but this isn't the place to ask confidential legal questions. If you need an employee-side employment lawyer, try http://exchange.nela.org/findalawyer to locate one in your state.