Feel free to discipline or terminate employees who insist on working unauthorized overtime

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in Employment Law,Firing,Human Resources

Hourly employees generally know that if they work overtime, their employer has to pay them for the extra hours. That’s true, but that doesn’t mean employees can work OT whenever they feel like it.

Here’s how to end unauthorized overtime:

Tell employees they can only work overtime that you authorize in advance. Then discipline those who don’t follow directions. You can’t refuse to pay them for the hours worked, but you can punish them for breaking the overtime rule. If a reprimand doesn’t get the message across, try a suspension or even termination.

Recent case: Lisa Ritchie was an hourly employee who regularly put overtime hours on her timecard even after being told she could not. The newspaper she worked for paid her for the hours, but fired her for breaking the rules.

Ritchie sued, alleging that entering the hours on her timecard was protected activity and firing her was retaliation.

The court didn’t buy her argument. It reasoned that employers wouldn’t be able to discipline employees who worked unauthorized overtime if those employees simply recorded their extra hours, thus removing any leverage the employer had to order no overtime. (Ritchie v. St. Louis Jewish Light, No. 10-1356, 8th Cir., 2011)

Final note: Employers can’t turn a blind eye to workers who work extra hours—even if they don’t mark it on their timecards. That’s why you should have a specific policy on overtime work.

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