Can You Get Fired for Refusing to Work Overtime?

Employment in US is employment at will, which means it is the employers will that prevails over your employment and termination. This is the basis of employment. So, an employer can hire and fire his employees as and when required. However, if you are having an issue with overtime it may play out differently.


Paying Overtime to Employees


When it comes to overtime, employees are divided into two categories: exempt and non-exempt.


  • Exempt Employees: Exempt employees are those who earn at least $455 a week. The employer is exempt from paying overtime to such employees even if they work more than 40 hours a week. These are usually positions requiring professional training or advanced knowledge. Nevertheless, these people may also need to work overtime, i.e. beyond 40 hours a week. If the employer asks these people to work over time, they cannot usually say no to it unless he perceives that he is being singled out on the basis of his caste, religion, sex, color, national origin, disability, etc. If there is an air of discrimination in the whole affair, he or she can report the same. Otherwise, he is supposed to work overtime and not get paid for it since his salary is above $455 a week. If you refuse to work overtime, you may be fired from employment. However, you can obviously discuss the matter with your employer and skip the overtime sometimes.


  • Non-exempt Employees: These are employees who are drawing less than $455 a week and are eligible for overtime payment for working beyond the mandatory 40 hours a week. They are supposed to work overtime when required. However, the employer is required to pay overtime at 50% higher rate. If there is no dispute about the rate of overtime paid by the employer, the employee is supposed work the extra time. In fact, if you refuse to work overtime, you may be fired. However, you have the option of discussing the matter with the employer and defer or skip the overtime. You also need to ensure that you are not being singled out for overtime on the basis of your national origin, sex, medical condition, disability, color, sex, etc.


Refusing Overtime Work


So, if you are refusing to work overtime, you may be fired regardless of the fact whether you are an exempt or non-exempt employee. However, if you are a good worker, especially a exempt worker with an advanced degree, diploma, knowledge or training, the employer would like to empathize with you. You do have the option of bargaining for a pay rise and settle the matter.


However, for non-exempt workers the provision is less liberal. Employers ask employees to perform overtime only when it is strictly necessary for productivity. They also need to pay enhanced compensation at the rate of 50% higher than normal payout beyond the mandatory 40 hours of work per week. If you refuse to work overtime, the employer may not act liberal. However, you do have the opportunity to discuss the matter with the employer and skip overtime, if there is an emergency situation at home.


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