Terminology Translation: How does the FLSA define (and award damages for) overtime?

measuring overtime

The Fair Labor and Standards Act (FLSA) sets minimum wage, overtime pay, record keeping and child labor standards. The Wage and Hour Division of the US Department of Labor (DOL) administers and enforces the FLSA.

The FLSA defines ‘overtime’ as all time actually worked over a determined threshold. The threshold is usually 40 hours per work week, but some government jobs and medical workers, such as policemen and firefighters, may have different thresholds and work week definitions.

Only ‘actual’ work counts toward the overtime threshold. Leave time, for example, does not count towards the overtime threshold. Additionally, the Act does not require overtime pay for work on Saturdays, Sundays or holidays. Until the overtime threshold is exceeded, no overtime pay is owed to an employee.

FLSA overtime is paid at ‘time-and-a-half‘ the regular hourly rate. A number of factors must be included in the calculation of the FLSA overtime rate, including longevity pay and shift differentials.

It is an employer’s responsibility to collect and maintain employee work records. An employer owes damages for unpaid overtime work unless they can show that they could not have learned of the overtime pay violations even with diligent inquiries.

Liquidated damages are essentially an award of damages that includes the unpaid overtime wages and a penalty for the violation. They are usually double the amount of unpaid back wages, and are calculated at that rate in lieu of interest that would have to be calculated for back damages. Punitive damages are only relevant in FLSA overtime violation cases if it is found that the employer intentionally and willfully violated the Act. The FLSA also requires employers found violating overtime regulations to reimburse all out of pocket litigation expenses as well as an attorney’s fee award.


Relevant resources:

FLSA Overtime Calculator Advisor

EmployStats’ FLSA violations investigation and research

NERA’s FLSA and State Law Claim research

Emily Litzinger, ‘Willfulness, Good Faith, and the Fair Labor Standards Act