Can You Be Fired For Refusing to Work Overtime? - Bantle & Levy LLP



Can You Be Fired For Refusing to Work Overtime?

Many salaried positions do not regularly offer overtime, but there are circumstances when it is needed. Some of these employees may jump at the opportunity with how rare it is and how much more compensation they will receive, but do you have to work overtime when asked? It depends on a few factors. In most situations, if an employee refuses to work overtime, it is perfectly reasonable and within the law for the employer to fire them. This isn’t the most appropriate or common grounds for someone’s employment to be terminated, but it happens. But this does beg the question, are there exceptions where someone cannot be fired for refusing to work overtime?

You might think that there are situations and activities that if someone is facing or partaking in, they should be exempt from being asked to work overtime. You might think that in these instances, their employer would be violating the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) by firing them. The employee rights attorneys at Bantle & Levy can explain whether or not this is true.

When are Employees Exempt From Overtime?

According to the FLSA and New York state’s minimum wage laws, an employer doesn’t have to pay overtime if they work in a bona fide administrative capacity. Furthermore, employees in New York City must earn $1,125 weekly to be considered overtime-exempt. However, to be exempt from these categories under New York state overtime law, an employee must earn twice the minimum wage for their full-time work. Businesses of certain sizes, generally with fewer than 20 employees, may also be exempt from having to pay overtime wages to employees.

Therefore, criteria such as job duties, wage threshold, and business size can determine whether an employee is exempt from overtime in New York City.

What Does This All Mean?

Altogether, this means that your employer can legally fire you for saying no to overtime hours. The FLSA and state minimum wage laws do not protect you if you try to deny a request to work overtime. New York is an at-will employment state, which means that employers can fire you at any time without any warning or giving a reason as long as it isn’t illegal and prejudiced.

When Overtime Conflicts With Discrimination

Religious events are an easy example to use to explain this. If there is an event you wish to attend for religious reasons, your employer asking you to work overtime can be considered an illegal reason. It’s all about context.

For example, if you are Jewish, and your employer only asks you to work during the important holiday of Hanukkah, it may be a sign of religious discrimination. If other employees are not Jewish and do not celebrate this sacred holiday, they should be asked first and equally at risk of being fired for saying no. If you are the only one who is asked, or the only one who is fired in this example, firing you for not working overtime is a sign of a wrongful termination.

Just to elaborate, if in this example, a believer in Christianity or Islam was also fired for refusing to work overtime on the holiday, it can still be wrongful termination. However, the argument for wrongful termination is potentially made much weaker.

You Can be Fired for Refusing Overtime

If your employer is trying to push you to work overtime hours, it’s because they require the manpower. More often than not, an employer isn’t going to fire a good worker when they need workers because they only work their allotted hours. However, it does happen.

If you notice that you’re the only one in your protected class to get fired after refusing overtime, contact an attorney immediately. This means that they’re using your denial of overtime as an excuse to fire you and cover up their illegal termination of your employment.

Contact the Employee Rights Attorneys at Bantle & Levy

Our employee rights attorneys are well-versed and experienced in defending against wrongful termination. Employers believe that they can cover up prejudiced practices while running their business because they operate in an at-will employment state. We’re here to tell you that this is not the case.

Our employee rights attorneys have been holding employers responsible for decades. If you’re unsure of how to proceed in your situation, contact our law office for assistance as soon as possible. We’re here to help.

Bantle & Levy
Bantle & Levy

Lee Bantle is a partner at Bantle & Levy LLP. He has extensive legal expertise, admitted to the bars of the U.S. District Court and the U.S. Court of Appeals. With a distinguished academic background and clerkship experience, he has been recognized as a top-rated civil rights attorney and esteemed lawyer. In addition to his successful career, he has actively contributed to various legal organizations and serves as a faculty member for NYU's Annual Workshop on Employment Law for Federal Judges.


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