The vast majority of HR professionals report that their company requires employees to gain approval prior to working overtime, but many who have such a policy have not put it in writing, according to a recent Compensation.BLR.com poll.
When asked "Do you require employees to get approval prior to working overtime?," two-thirds (66 percent) responded "Yes, we have a written rule/policy" while 25 percent responded "Yes, it's common knowledge (but not in writing)." Just 9 percent reported that their company did not require employees to get approval before they worked overtime.
If an employer allows an employee to work overtime, even though no supervisor has requested the additional work hours, the additional hours being worked are still considered as work time that must be compensated at the applicable overtime rate. An employer is considered to have allowed an employee to work overtime if it knew or should have known that an employee was on the premises working. Employers that want to bar unauthorized overtime should have an explicit policy that designates who has the authority to authorize overtime and how the authorization must be made. The policy should be strictly enforced.
In a recent court case involving overtime, a U.S. Court of Appeals ruled that an employer must pay for unauthorized overtime, even if it had a policy requiring that employees get authorization. The court explained that instead of refusing to pay for unauthorized overtime, such an employer's safest course is to pay it, but discipline the employee in some other way for violating the rule. For example, it could stipulate that if an employee persists in violating the rule, he or she could be terminated.
The Compensation.BLR.com poll included 287 respondents.