If you have a choice between a job that pays well and a similar job that pays poorly, you will likely choose the job that pays well. Jobs are to help you earn the money you need to support your family, pay your bills and plan for your future. If your employer pays you by the hour, time is literally money to you.
Fortunately, federal and Tennessee laws protect workers' rights to fair wages. The Fair Labor Standards Act places restrictions and obligations on your employer to ensure you receive the pay you deserve for the work you do. However, not every employer complies with these laws, and they may get away with paying unfair wages if employees do not know their rights under the FLSA.
How does overtime work?
Federal law is clear about the wages your employer must pay an hourly worker. In most cases, your boss must pay at least $7.25 an hour, which is the federal minimum wage. Many states, including Tennessee, follow this standard, but others offer a higher hourly rate. Some exceptions may exist, such as workers who also earn tips or commissions, but your average hourly wage must be at or above the minimum standard.
If you work more than 40 hours in a week, your employer must pay you time and a half per hour. Therefore, at $7.25 an hour, your overtime rate would be $10.88 per hour for the time beyond your 40 hours. The problem is that some employers try to avoid letting you accumulate more than 40 hours on the clock even if you work those hours in reality.
Your boss may deduct your lunch hour even though you work through your break. Your employer may ask you to stay and work after you have clocked out or take work home to finish on your own time. Each of these and others are violations of your rights under FLSA.
Do I qualify for overtime?
Most hourly workers are eligible for overtime pay if they work more than 40 hours a week. If you earn a salary, such as in managerial, administrative or professional positions, you are likely receiving pay that is above the average minimum wage. This may compensate for any hours you must work over your scheduled 40.
If you aren't certain if you qualify for overtime pay your employer has not paid you, you would be wise to reach out for legal advice. A few dollars may not seem like much, but over the weeks and years of employment, your boss may be cheating you out of a substantial amount of money.