The federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) requires employers to pay nonexempt employees 1.5 times their "regular rate of pay" for all hours worked over 40 in a workweek. Some states, such as California, require overtime pay in additional circumstances and at different rates.
Below, we cover how to calculate overtime in accordance with federal rules.
Key concepts
Workweek
A workweek is a period of 168 hours during 7 consecutive 24-hour periods. It may begin on any day of the week and at any hour of the day established by the employer. For purposes of the minimum wage and overtime, each workweek stands alone; employers are prohibited from averaging two or more workweeks.
For example, if a nonexempt employee works 50 hours in workweek #1 and 30 hours in workweek #2, the employer cannot average the hours from the two workweeks to determine whether overtime is due. In this example, the employee is entitled to 10 hours of overtime pay for workweek #1, regardless of how many hours they work in workweek #2.
Regular rate of pay
To accurately calculate overtime pay, you must first determine the employee's regular rate of pay. An employee's regular rate includes their hourly rate as well as the value of nondiscretionary bonuses, shift differentials, and certain other forms of compensation. Therefore, if the employee receives these other types of compensation, you must factor them in when determining their regular rate of pay.
Nondiscretionary bonuses
Under the FLSA, most bonuses are considered nondiscretionary and therefore must be included in the regular rate of pay calculation. Nondiscretionary bonuses include those:
- Based on a predetermined formula, such as individual or group production bonuses;
- Bonuses for quality and accuracy of work;
- Bonuses announced to employees to induce them to work more efficiently;
- Attendance bonuses; and
- Safety bonuses (i.e., number of days without safety incidents).
These bonuses are nondiscretionary because employees know about and expect the bonus. The understanding of how an employee earns the bonus may lead them to expect to receive the bonus regularly. The fact that the employer has the option not to pay the bonus doesn't make the bonus discretionary.
Examples of overtime calculations
Here are some examples of calculating overtime under federal law. Always check to ensure calculations comply with both federal and state law.
Example #1: Hourly wage only |
A nonexempt employee is paid $20 per hour and receives no other forms of compensation. In one workweek, they work 50 hours. Under the FLSA, their overtime pay is calculated as follows: |
Example #2: Hourly wage with a nondiscretionary bonus |
A nonexempt employee is paid $12 per hour. In one workweek, they work 50 hours and receive a $100 nondiscretionary productivity bonus. Overtime is calculated as follows: Step 1: Add straight-time hourly wages for all hours worked and bonus to determine total straight-time compensation. ($12 hourly rate x 50 hours worked) + $100 bonus = $700 Step 2: Divide total straight-time compensation by total hours worked to determine regular rate of pay. $700 straight-time pay divided by 50 hours worked = $14 Step 3: Multiply regular rate of pay by .5 and then multiply by total overtime hours. $14 regular rate of pay x .5 overtime premium pay x 10 overtime hours = $70 Since the straight-time earnings have already been calculated for all hours worked (see Step 1), the employee is entitled to an additional 10 hours of overtime premium pay, calculated at one-half the regular rate of pay. Step 4: Calculate total compensation. $70 overtime premium pay + $700 straight-time pay = $770 State Law: Your state law may require a different formula. California, for example, requires a different methodology for calculating overtime when an employee receives a flat sum bonus. Note: If the nondiscretionary bonus is earned over a single workweek, as is the case above, the bonus is added to the employee's regular earnings for that workweek when determining the regular rate of pay. However, if the bonus is earned over a series of workweeks, the prorated bonus must be included in the regular rate of pay in all overtime weeks covered by the bonus period. If the calculation of the bonus is deferred over a period longer than a workweek, the employer may temporarily disregard the bonus in computing the regular rate until the amount of the bonus can be determined. In other words, the employer would pay compensation for overtime at 1.5 times the hourly rate until the bonus can be determined. Once the amount of the bonus can be ascertained, it must be apportioned back over the workweeks of the bonus period. The employer must then recalculate the regular rate of pay for each overtime workweek in the bonus period and pay the overtime premium pay due on the bonus. |
Example #3: Multiple rates of pay |
A nonexempt employee works for the same employer in two different jobs. In one workweek, the employee works 10 hours for $10 per hour and 40 hours for $20 per hour. When there are two or more rates of pay, the regular rate for that workweek is the weighted average under federal law. To calculate overtime: Step 1: Calculate total straight-time pay. ($10 hourly rate x 10 hours) + ($20 hourly rate X 40 hours) = $900 Step 2: Divide total straight-time compensation by total hours worked to determine regular rate of pay. $900 straight-time pay divided by 50 hours worked = $18 Step 3: Calculate overtime premium pay. $18 regular rate of pay x .5 overtime premium pay x 10 overtime hours = $90 Since the straight-time earnings have already been calculated (see Step 1), the additional amount to be calculated is one-half the regular rate of pay. Step 4: Calculate total compensation for week. $900 straight-time pay + $90 overtime premium pay = $990 State Law: For the purposes of determining the regular rate of pay, federal law also allows employers to use the hourly rate in effect when the overtime work is performed, as long as the employee agreed to this method in advance of performing the work and certain other conditions are met. These agreements should be in writing. Some states have different rules. Check your state law to ensure compliance. |
Example #4: Tipped employees |
Background: The FLSA permits employers to pay tipped employees a direct cash wage as low as $2.13 per hour, provided the employee's direct cash wages plus tips equal or exceed the federal minimum wage (currently $7.25 per hour). In such cases, the employer then may take a tip credit toward its minimum wage obligation equal to the difference between the required direct cash wage and the federal minimum wage (or $5.12 per hour). When the employer takes the tip credit, overtime is calculated based on the full minimum wage, rather than the direct cash wage. However, the employer may be able to apply the tip credit to the overtime rate if it doesn't exceed the tip credit taken for non-overtime hours. Let's look at an example. A tipped employee works 50 hours in a workweek. Let's assume the employee is subject to the federal minimum wage rather than a higher state or local minimum wage. The employee receives a direct cash wage of $3 per hour and their employer applies a tip credit of $4.25 per hour toward the minimum wage. Beyond tips and direct cash wages, the employee receives no other compensation during the workweek. To calculate overtime: Step 1: Because the tip credit was taken, use the full minimum wage to calculate the overtime rate. $7.25 x 1.5 = $10.88 Step 2: Subtract the appropriate tip credit from the overtime rate to achieve the adjusted overtime rate and multiply by the number of overtime hours worked that week. The tip credit generally cannot be greater than the one you applied to non-overtime hours. $10.88 - $4.25 = $6.63 $6.63 x 10 overtime hours = $66.30 Step 3: Add the employee's straight pay to the overtime pay to calculate total pay that week. 40 hours x $3 = $120 $120 straight-time pay + $66.30 overtime premium pay = $186.30 Remember, this employee must also have received at least $212.50 in tips ($4.25 x 50 hours) for the employer to take the tip credit. State Law: Some states have stricter rules related to tip credits or prohibit them altogether. Many states and local jurisdictions also have higher minimum wages. Check your state and local law for compliance requirements. |
Example #5: Salaried nonexempt employee with fixed schedule |
A nonexempt employee with a fixed schedule earns a weekly salary of $400 and is expected to work 40 hours per week for that salary. In one particular workweek, the employee works 50 hours. Step 1: Calculate total straight-time pay. $400 salary divided by 40 hours = $10 hourly rate Step 2: Calculate regular rate of pay. $500 straight-time pay divided by 50 hours worked = $10 per hour Step 3: Calculate overtime pay. $10 regular rate of pay x .5 overtime premium pay x 10 overtime hours = $50 Since straight-time earnings have already been calculated (see Step 1), the additional amount to be calculated is one-half the regular rate of pay ($10 x .5 = $5). Step 4: Calculate total compensation for week. $500 straight-time pay + $50 overtime premium pay = $550 State Law: Under the FLSA, to calculate a salaried nonexempt employee's regular rate of pay, consider the number of hours the employer and employee understand the salary is intended to cover, which may be more than 40. For example, if the employer and employee understand the salary to cover 45 hours, then the employer may calculate the regular rate of pay by dividing the weekly salary by 45 hours. In this case, the overtime rate would be .5 x the regular rate for hours 40 to 45 and 1.5 times the regular rate for hours in excess of 45 under the FLSA. Some states have different rules and require that the weekly salary be divided by non-overtime hours worked only when determining the regular rate of pay. Check your state law to ensure compliance. |
Example #6: Salaried nonexempt employee with fluctuating schedule |
Background: Federal rules include a special formula for calculating overtime for salaried nonexempt employees whose work hours fluctuate from week to week (known as the fluctuating workweek). To use the fluctuating workweek method under the FLSA (see also the State laws and other caveats section below):
Let's take a look at a salaried nonexempt employee with a fluctuating schedule, who earns a weekly salary of $600. In the applicable workweek, the employee works 50 hours. Step 1: Calculate regular rate of pay by dividing salary by total hours worked. $600 salary divided by 50 hours worked = $12 Step 2: Calculate overtime pay by multiplying the hours of overtime worked by one-half the regular rate of pay. 10 hours of overtime x ($12 regular rate of pay x .5 overtime premium pay) = $60 (overtime premium pay) Step 3: Add overtime time to salary to determine total pay. $600 salary and $60 overtime premium pay = $660 State law and other caveats: There are some important factors to review when considering whether a fluctuating workweek method is right for your employees. First, some states, including California, expressly prohibit employers from using the fluctuating workweek method for paying overtime. Additionally, this method is also a common source of employee lawsuits. Employers should check their state (and local) law and consult legal counsel as necessary before using it. |
Conclusion
Review your pay practices to ensure that you are calculating and paying overtime in accordance with all applicable laws.
New Proposed Overtime Exemption Rule: What You Need to Know
On August 30, 2023, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) released a proposed rule that would increase the minimum salary required to qualify for exemptions from overtime for administrative, professional, executive and highly compensated employees. Here are answers to some frequently asked questions about the proposed rule.