Can my boss require me to work overtime?

While the days of 9-5 pretty much vanished with the explosion of the tech industry, most employees (below executive level) still expect to work about a 40 hour week. So what happens when your boss, or simply the demands of your job, requires that you put in more hours than usual to get the job done?

Alas, the answer is not straightforward. The Federal Labor Standards Act is the force at the federal level that dictates wage and hour laws. While it regulates items such as minimum wage, it mostly stays quiet about the number of hours in a day that an adult can be required to work. This means that, at least at the Federal level, your boss can legally mandate overtime.

At the state level, however, things are not quite so black and white. New York has, for example, a law that specifically exempts nurses from being required to work overtime except in the event of an emergency. New York State also mandates that even exempt employees (with a few exceptions, such as executives) be paid overtime when they are required to work beyond their contracted hours.

If you are unhappy with your required number of working hours, you may wish to start by speaking with your employer about your situation. That may be the quickest and least painful way to resolve your situation. If, however, you believe compensation to which you are legally entitled has been withheld, you may wish to consult an attorney. He or she may be able to ensure that you are justly compensated.

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