Q. Right now, we don’t want to hire anyone permanently and think it would be more cost effective to require our employees to work overtime instead. Can we force employees to work overtime?
A. State and federal wage-and-hour laws don’t prohibit requiring employees to work overtime. Those laws currently only require paying an employee a rate time-and-a-half his or her regular rate of pay for hours worked beyond 40 in a workweek.
That means employers may generally “force” employees to work overtime and may discharge employees who refuse.
But before you do, think hard about requiring overtime for employees who have not traditionally worked extra hours. Give the employee plenty of advance notice so they can make arrangements to handle personal matters such as child care. You might also consider asking for volunteers before requiring overtime.
Note that employees who have a disability that may be aggravated by working extra hours may claim that limiting their work to their regular working hours constitutes a reasonable accommodation.