In an age of supply chain disruptions, labor shortages and ongoing pandemic response, it is no surprise that many workers — in all varieties of industry — are called upon to put in extra hours. In fact, the Wall Street Journal observes a national trend where companies are placing increasing reliance on overtime to offset the stark reality of unfilled positions. While the Journal recognizes the financial benefits of extended hours, it also recounts the physical and psychological toll. How, then, does overtime work in New York State and are the economic benefits worth the cost?
Is overtime pay the law or simply a courtesy from employers? Make no mistake, wage earners are entitled to overtime rates according to state and federal legislation. The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) was originally passed by the U.S. Congress in 1938, and has been revised many times since — as with the federal minimum wage, for example. Included in its provisions are overtime regulations. At the state level, the New York State Minimum Wage Orders supplement the national requirements. These establish a floor on pay rates in various regions and economic sectors: New York City, Long Island and Upstate; large employers and small employers; farm workers and miscellaneous industries, for example.
When does overtime activate for workers in the Empire State? In most cases, overtime rates kick in after the 40 hour week threshold has been crossed. So a factory worker who is asked to remain on the job for two extra hours each night would receive 10 hours of overtime wages in addition to regular pay. This would also apply, say, if the employee were asked to work on Saturday or a regularly scheduled day off in addition to the regular work week. Once 40 hours have been attained, anything over and above that is overtime.
Do all New Yorkers qualify for overtime after 40 hours? Certain job categories are actually exempt from an overtime regime. Self-employed individuals pay themselves, of course, what they wish and can afford; they are not, however, compelled by law. For those employed by companies or other organizations, executive, administrative and professional personnel are exempt from overtime. Information technology and computer experts are likewise untethered to rules relative to overtime. Separation from overtime eligibility also applies to cab drivers; members of religious orders; baby sitters; and other partakers of the gig economy.
What is the rate for overtime pay in New York? The FLSA sets a baseline standard for overtime pay to be one and a half times the regular hourly wage. Taking again the factory worker as an example, if that employee receives a regular wage of $25 per hour, continuing to work after 40 hours would then increase the compensation to $37.50 per hour (i.e. $25 + $12.50). New York’s statewide rate for overtime is the same as that of the United States but its minimum wage is higher than the national setting.
What if I work a salaried job? Overtime for salaried employees must be calculated by dividing the weekly compensation by 40 — or 45, 35 or whatever constitutes the full work week according to the hiring agreement — and then multiplying that by time and a half. If an employee is hired to work 45 hours for an agreed-upon salary, that is called “straight time” even though it exceeds 40 hours. Overtime kicks in when straight time is exceeded.
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