How Do I Claim Unpaid Overtime?

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  • Written By: Renee Booker
  • Edited By: E. E. Hubbard
  • Last Modified Date: 18 February 2020
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The United States has specific laws that address wage and overtime issues for hourly workers. The Fair Labor Standards Act sets forth specific federal rules regarding requirements that most workers receive at the least the federal minimum wage, as well as provisions for overtime pay when an employee has worked hours that qualify as overtime. When a worker feels that he or she is due unpaid overtime pay, help may be available from the Wage and Hour Division of the United States Department of Labor. If that route is unsuccessful, or the employee chooses to act without its assistance, then filing a lawsuit against the employer may be required.

As a general rule, employees who are covered under the Fair Labor Standards Act are required, under federal law, to be paid an hourly wage equivalent to one-and-one-half times their regular pay when they work over 40 hours in a work week. A workweek, for purposes of unpaid overtime pay issues, is defined as seven consecutive 24-hour periods. A workweek does not need to begin on Sunday and end on Saturday, but it must be an established seven-day period. In addition, averaging hours worked over a two-week period is not allowed in order to avoid paying unpaid overtime pay.


When an employee believes that he or she is owed unpaid overtime pay, one course of action he or she may take is to contact the Wage and Hour Division (WHD) of the United States Department of Labor (USDL). Each state has at least one WHD office located within the state. The WHD provides oversight for the USDL in an attempt to ensure that employers are not violating the wage and overtime laws. The WHD will frequently contact the employer on behalf of the employee and attempt to secure the unpaid overtime for the employee. If the employer is uncooperative, the WHD may choose to file a lawsuit on behalf of the employee in order to get the employer to pay the unpaid overtime due.

An employee may also choose to pursue legal action without the help of the WHD through filing a lawsuit. The employee may decide to hire an employment lawyer or file the lawsuit pro se, or without representation. Although pursuing a lawsuit without the help of the WHD may require the employee to incur costs involved with the lawsuit, the employee may be able to recover additional damages aside from the unpaid overtime if the employer's actions were intentional.


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