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BEA Illustrations-You Ask Color

Q: I hired an employee to work 34-40 hours per week. Through my policies as well verbal communication, I have made it clear that this individual cannot exceed 40 hours for the week without authorization from me. Yet, they frequently work over 40 hours without asking me first. On top of that, they expect to be paid overtime for those hours. I did not approve the overtime hours, so I do not think I should have to pay it. Can I legally refuse to pay overtime when employees work unauthorized overtime?


Unfortunately, no, that would not be legal. If you refused to pay overtime, this could end up being a wage & hour violation and result in penalties and fines, which is likely far more costly than the extra overtime compensation.

It is good that your policies and your communication make your rules clear because that does allow you to hold employee’s accountable. However, when an employee does not follow your rules, the penalty can never be refusing to pay them for time worked. Employers also can’t dock pay as punishment. Employees must be paid for all hours worked, including overtime, regardless of any rule violation that may have occurred.

The only recourse employers have for fixing these problems is standard disciplinary action. This includes coaching, verbal and written warnings, possibly suspension without pay, and then ultimately termination if they continue to violate the rules.