Finding the Balance in Mandatory Overtime

If you are a non-exempt employee who has worked beyond your decided weekly hours, those added hours are considered overtime; and are to be compensated at a higher rate than your regular hours.

At some point in your career, you will likely find yourself working overtime for one reason or another. Some companies offer more overtime than do others, whether on a consistent or variable basis.  Yet, other companies prefer to include overtime in the hiring agreement, informing employees that mandatory overtime hours are part of the job description. Still, there are certain companies that frown upon overtime, and only offer it in extreme cases.

Weekly time sheet

Reasons for Overtime

Depending upon the type of organization, industry, and its individual business practices, the reasons for overtime can greatly vary.

The most common reason for working past sign-out time is to increase production. Perhaps, there is an unusually large order that must be shipped to an important customer within a short period of time, but production and processing has not yet been completed. In order to meet important deadlines, companies will require that employees put in extra time with an incentive of increased pay until the project is completed when original schedule hours can resume.

According to the FSLA (Fair Labor Standards Act), all U.S. employers are generally required to pay their waged non-exempt employees one and a half or two times their base salary for any hours exceeding a 40 hour work week.

The Federal government does not recognize overtime on weekends or holidays unless the employee has worked more than 40 hours within that week. Certain overtime specifics may vary slightly based upon the labor regulations of the state in which you work.

Employer’s Perspective: Pros and Cons

One obvious business advantage is an increased level of production. Overtime assists in bridging work gaps due to absences or leaves, helping companies avoid hiring temporary staff. Overtime hours can also be utilized to conduct routine maintenance and repairs to avoid inconvenient delays during regular work hours or peak production times. Another benefit is that employees can complete their regular responsibilities during business hours, while using overtime hours for special projects and assignments that don’t necessarily need to be completed during the 9 to 5.

However, extended or long-term overtime can also sometimes create a significant dent in a company’s budget, especially when an already amply compensated employee accumulates numerous overtime hours. When monetary issues arise in general, organizations often find themselves tightening the overtime reigns or even discontinuing it altogether.

In addition to financial issues, another concern to organizations is that too much overtime can cause employees to become overworked and depleted, possibly resulting in extra sick days or unsafe work practices.

Employee’s Perspective: Pros and Cons

While some may express dismay at the thought of working longer hours, many employees look forward to overtime for two very distinct reasons: Increased pay and the opportunity for company advancement. Agreeing to work overtime hours is one way for employees to showcase their abilities and willingness to contribute to the overall success of the organization. However, employees do need to use caution by retaining permission, making sure that their particular overtime is accepted by management.

While the extra income earned through overtime is certainly a positive aspect, employees must be sure not to burn the candle at both ends. Even with the best of intentions, there is always the risk of exhaustion from working too many consecutive hours, not to mention that more time at the office means less time at home with family and loved ones. Health and overall quality of life are two important considerations when contemplating taking on large quantities of overtime.

Time Money Signpost Shows Hours Are More Important Than Wealth


Mandatory overtime hours are a blessing and a curse to both companies and employees. In a fast-paced workforce like today, companies struggle to keep up with their competitors, and employees struggle to find time to spend with their families. Balancing the amount of overtime worked with production overload would be beneficial to all. Nevertheless, employees should always refer to their own state regulations to confirm which overtime laws apply to them.

Fred Coon, CEO


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