Skip to content

Mandatory overtime: Laws & pay requirements for employers

9 min read

Sometimes, companies need their employees to work extra hours. This might be when the workload is high, when there are tight deadlines, or if the organization is experiencing staffing shortages. In these situations, employers can either ask their workers to volunteer for overtime, or they can enforce mandatory overtime.

But, what is mandatory overtime, and is overtime mandatory in all cases? Or can employees refuse to work extra hours? And how does mandatory overtime pay work?

In this article, we will explore mandatory overtime and whether it is legal in all states. We will also share a list of practical tips and strategies to help you avoid mandatory overtime. That way, you can find the right balance between meeting business demands and ensuring the fair treatment of your workforce.

free trial banner

What is mandatory overtime?

Mandatory overtime, also known as forced overtime, is a practice where employers require employees to work additional hours beyond their regular schedule. Employers often implement it during peak seasons or as a result of urgent deadlines, staffing issues, or unexpected events. Instead of asking employees to volunteer, with mandatory overtime, employees are required to put in the extra time, regardless of their personal preferences or availability.

There are a number of advantages to enforcing overtime in your business. It can lead to increased productivity and operational efficiency by ensuring that sufficient labor is available to meet increased demand. It can also be cost-effective, as it may be more financially viable than hiring and training additional employees, especially for short-term or sporadic workload spikes. Additionally, mandatory overtime can help employers meet project deadlines or address urgent operational needs. Ultimately, it can help your business manage workload fluctuations and avoid potential disruptions.

However, many employees argue that mandatory overtime should be illegal.


For one thing, it can lead to fatigue, stress, and employee burnout as a result of the additional work hours. This, in turn, can result in decreased job satisfaction and productivity, which can then lead to increased turnover. Moreover, it often leads to higher labor costs as you have to pay overtime premiums. It can also be difficult to manage as employers must ensure compliance with labor laws and regulations governing overtime, including restrictions on maximum hours and appropriate compensation. That’s why it’s so important to understand all federal and state overtime laws and pay requirements.

Is mandatory overtime legal?

Ok, next question: is mandatory overtime legal? And can overtime be mandatory in all states?

There are a few things to consider here. Firstly, as an employer, you need to be mindful of wage and hour laws and collective bargaining agreements when implementing mandatory overtime. Compliance with these regulations is essential to protect employee rights and prevent exploitation. For instance, these legal frameworks often define the maximum number of hours an employee can work in a day or week. They also specify overtime compensation rates and outline the conditions under which mandatory overtime can be enforced. This includes the rules for managing overtime for exempt employees.

For example, under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), non-exempt employees are entitled to overtime pay for any hours worked over 40 in a workweek. Although the FLSA sets the minimum standards for overtime pay, states can also have their own regulations that provide additional protections to employees. In fact, several states have implemented their own restrictions related to mandatory overtime.

Let’s explore a few of these state-specific laws.

Is overtime mandatory in California?

In California, the mandatory overtime law is primarily governed by the state’s labor laws, including the California Labor Code and Industrial Welfare Commission (IWC) Wage Orders. These regulations provide guidelines and protections for employees relating to working hours, overtime compensation, and mandatory overtime restrictions.

Key provisions of the overtime laws in California include:

  • Overtime pay: In most industries, employees in California are entitled to daily overtime pay for hours worked beyond 8 in a workday. They are also eligible for weekly overtime pay for hours worked beyond 40 in a workweek. Overtime is compensated at a rate of 1.5 times the employee’s regular rate of pay (time and a half). For hours worked beyond 12 in a workday or over 8 on the seventh consecutive day of work in a workweek, the rate increases to double the regular rate of pay.
  • Overtime restrictions: California labor laws do not specifically prohibit employers from mandating overtime. However, certain industries have specific limitations on mandatory overtime to protect the health and safety of employees. These regulations often include requirements for rest breaks, meal periods, and limitations on consecutive work hours.
  • Alternative workweek schedules: California labor laws allow employers and employees to establish alternative workweek schedules by mutual agreement. Under these arrangements, employees can work longer shifts without triggering daily overtime. The only condition is that the schedule complies with certain legal requirements and is approved through a proper voting process.

In addition to the above, the state of California prohibits mandatory overtime for nurses, except in emergency situations “where the safety of the patient requires its use and when there is no reasonable alternative.” As a result, nurses have the right to refuse overtime free from any fear of retaliation.

New York’s regulations

The New York State Department of Labor (NYSDOL) sets the rules and standards for overtime in the state. This includes the way employers must handle mandatory overtime.

Here are some key points regarding New York’s overtime regulations:

  • Eligibility: In general, most employees in New York are covered by overtime laws, but there are exemptions for certain types of employees, such as executive, administrative, and professional employees who meet specific criteria. These exemptions are based on job duties and salary level, among other factors.
  • Pay rate: Non-exempt employees who work more than 40 hours in a workweek are generally entitled to overtime pay, which is typically set at 1.5 times their regular hourly rate.
  • Daily overtime: New York does not require daily overtime pay. Overtime is generally calculated based on the total hours worked in a workweek, rather than on a daily basis.

Even though the FLSA doesn’t limit the number of hours an employee can work in a week, the New York State Labor Law does regulate mandatory overtime, including compulsory overtime for nurses and other healthcare workers. This includes limits on consecutive work hours and mandatory rest periods between shifts. These regulations help prevent fatigue-related issues, promote work-life balance, and maintain the quality of patient care.

So, is this practice legal in California? Essentially, yes. Unless related to healthcare workers, employers in California have the right to impose mandatory overtime on condition that employees are compensated for all overtime hours.

New Jersey regulations

In New Jersey, mandatory overtime is generally legal, and employers have the right to require employees to work beyond 40 hours per week. However, there are some important factors to consider.

  • Overtime pay: According to the New Jersey State Wage and Hour Law, when non-exempt employees work more than 40 hours in a workweek, employers must offer overtime pay at a rate of 1.5 times their regular hourly rate.
  • Right to refuse: While employers can require employees to work overtime, employees have the right to refuse overtime work. However, an employer may take disciplinary action, including termination, if an employee refuses to work overtime when it is deemed necessary for the job.
  • Exceptions: Certain industries or job positions may have specific rules or collective bargaining agreements that affect overtime requirements and employee rights.

In addition, as is the case in New York and California, New Jersey has restrictions on workers in healthcare facilities.

These restrictions include:

  • Prohibition: Healthcare facilities are generally prohibited from requiring nurses and certain other direct patient care staff to work mandatory overtime, except in limited circumstances.
  • Exceptions: Mandatory overtime can only be required in situations where there is an unforeseen emergency or when providing patient care is necessary due to staff shortages that could impact patient safety.
  • Nurse fatigue prevention plans: Healthcare facilities must also develop and implement nurse fatigue prevention plans to address the potential risks associated with fatigue and ensure patient safety. These plans may include measures such as providing adequate staffing levels and rest breaks and monitoring employee fatigue.

Is overtime pay mandatory in Florida?

Florida does not have specific state laws governing mandatory overtime. Instead, the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) primarily regulates all practices in Florida.

Under the FLSA, employers must pay non-exempt employees in Florida overtime pay for any hours that they work beyond 40 in a workweek. They must pay this at a rate of 1.5 times the employee’s regular rate of pay. The FLSA does not mandate daily overtime pay or place restrictions on employers mandating overtime beyond the 40-hour workweek.

It’s important to note that certain specific industries and job roles have additional regulations that govern mandatory overtime in Florida. For example, as with the examples above, certain healthcare occupations have regulations governing mandatory overtime to ensure patient safety and prevent staff fatigue.

Is overtime pay mandatory in Texas?

Texas also follows the federal overtime provisions outlined in the FLSA for mandatory overtime. As a result, non-exempt employees in Texas are entitled to receive overtime pay for hours worked beyond 40 in a workweek at a rate of 1.5 times the employee’s regular rate of pay.

Texas does not have additional state-specific laws regarding enforced overtime or daily overtime pay. Therefore, employers in Texas generally have the authority to require employees to work overtime hours as necessary to fulfill business demands.

However, as with all other states, while there are no specific restrictions on mandatory overtime in Texas, certain industries have provisions to ensure employee safety and prevent excessive work hours, including healthcare.

How much mandatory overtime is legal?

Amazon has faced criticism for demanding too much mandatory overtime from its employees, particularly during peak holiday seasons. Similarly, USPS has also been known to implement mandatory overtime during busy periods to ensure that mail is delivered on time. However, this has led to public criticism of the companies due to its impact on employee well-being. Discussions often revolve around issues such as work-life balance, fatigue, and the potential negative effects of prolonged working hours.

So how much mandatory overtime is legal?

The FSLA does not place a maximum limit on the number of hours employers can require their employees to work. However, some states have regulations or restrictions in place. For example, California places limitations on mandatory overtime for employees who have clocked 72 hours or more in the previous week.

In addition, there are certain exceptions where overtime cannot be enforced.

This includes:

  • If you are a non-interstate commerce company, you cannot force employees to work overtime.
  • You cannot force exempt employees to work overtime under federal law.
  • If any of your employees come under the Rehabilitation Act or the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), you must make reasonable accommodations for a disability by modifying an employee’s scheduled overtime.

Are you required to give notice of mandatory overtime?

Generally speaking, employers can require employees to work overtime without prior notice. However, it is important to note that employers cannot ask employees to work off the clock, as doing so would violate the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).

Having said that, as an employer, you should check relevant state laws and collective bargaining agreements in case there are any notice requirements or other relevant restrictions. For example, Connecticut has regulations that require employers to provide employees with at least 24 hours of notice before scheduling mandatory overtime, except in certain circumstances such as emergencies or unforeseen events. And Massachusetts has implemented predictive scheduling laws that require employers to provide advance notice of work schedules, including mandatory overtime.

How to avoid mandatory overtime

Let’s take a look now at a few strategies that can help you reduce your reliance on mandatory overtime whilst maintaining the level of staffing and productivity that you need to grow your business.

  • Hire part-time or temporary employees to distribute workloads and reduce your reliance on overtime among full-time employees. These hires can specifically cover peak periods and high demand projects, or provide support during staff shortages.
  • Review workloads and monitor productivity to identify inefficiencies and make necessary adjustments. This can help you improve your workflows and optimize productivity.
  • Maintain open lines of communication with employees to better plan and allocate resources and schedules.
  • Implement time management techniques such as prioritization, task delegation, and time blocking to optimize productivity. This helps employees allocate their time efficiently so that they can complete important tasks within their regular working hours.
  • Offer alternative scheduling solutions like compressed workweeks, flex hours, or comp time to accommodate employee preferences and reduce the need for mandatory overtime.
  • Monitor attendance and employee time tracking and address staff shortages proactively to maintain sufficient staffing levels.
  • Foster a collaborative working environment that encourages communication and feedback regarding workload and associated concerns.

time attendance template

Managing overtime and flextime with Factorial

It’s one thing to understand how to avoid mandatory overtime in your business. However, you also need to make sure you’re using the right tools and technology to support your efforts. This includes efficiently managing and monitoring overtime and any alternative scheduling arrangements that you might offer, like flextime.

Factorial’s comprehensive suite of features can help with this.

For instance, Factorial’s time and attendance tracking feature helps you accurately record and monitor employee work hours in real time. That way, you can be sure that you are complying with labor regulations. You can easily track overtime hours, identify excessive overtime patterns, and proactively manage workload distribution. Plus, you can integrate all this data with Factorial’s payroll feature. That way, you can easily calculate overtime hours and rates according to predefined rules.

In addition, you can use Factorial’s scheduling feature to manage overtime and flextime arrangements. For instance, you can use shift planning tools to create and assign shifts based on workload requirements and employee availability. Employees can also request time off or schedule changes through the self-service portal. This streamlines the process and reduces your administrative burden.

Not only that, but Factorial’s reporting and analytics tools can provide you with valuable insights into employee schedules. This includes overtime trends, employee availability, and scheduling efficiency. This data-driven approach enables you to allocate workloads in line with staffing levels. You can also make adjustments when needed to prevent excessive overtime.

Ultimately, all these features help you optimize your staffing and scheduling practices so that you rely less on mandatory overtime, saving you money and enabling you to offer your workforce a healthy work-life balance.

Cat Symonds is a freelance writer, editor, and translator. Originally from Wales, she studied Spanish and French at the University of Swansea before moving to Barcelona where she lived and worked for 12 years. She has since relocated back to Wales where she continues to build her business, working with clients in Spain and the UK.  Cat is the founder of The Content CAT: Content And Translation, providing content development and translation services to her clients. She specializes in corporate blogs, articles of interest, ghostwriting, and translation (SP/FR/CA into EN), collaborating with a range of companies from a variety of business sectors. She also offers services to a number of NGOs including Oxfam Intermón, UNICEF, and Corporate Excellence - Centre for Reputation Leadership.  For more information or to contact Cat visit her website ( or send her a message through LinkedIn.

Related posts