American employees know much more about employment laws and worker rights than ever in U.S. history. Even so, many workers believe mandatory overtime is illegal and won’t face repercussions if they refuse.
State laws address extra hours and compensation but do not prohibit employers from making it mandatory or terminating those who refuse. Still, in certain situations the average employer cannot force overtime on workers or fire them for declining.
When compensation is inadequate
You may refuse to work overtime without consequences if your boss pays or intends to pay less than the minimum wage. They also cannot retaliate, including firing you, for refusing. In Kentucky, employers must pay employees time and a half for any hours worked beyond 40 in the standard employment workweek.
When health and safety is an issue
Overtime is not mandatory if it places employee health and safety in jeopardy. For example, employees may decline to work overtime if the environment contains hazards or dangerous conditions. However, ensure the employer knows about workplace problems and has a chance to address safety before you refuse.
When it violates an employment contract
In many contracted positions, the terms of a legal agreement dictate scheduling and hours. It binds the employee, but it also binds the employer. If a demand for overtime violates the terms of your contract, you may have grounds to refuse without facing employer ire.
Consider taking your story to a legal representative if constant demands for overtime become a chronic problem. They can help you understand your overtime obligations and determine if your employer is abusing their scheduling powers and mistreating you.