Can An Employer Make You Work Overtime Without Notice?


Overtime pay is governed by the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), a federal law that establishes the basis for employee wages, child labor, and employer record keeping. The law states that non-exempt employees must be paid 1.5x their hourly wage for any hours worked over 40 hours in a week. Unfortunately, federal law doesn’t address mandatory overtime or advance notice of schedule changes. As such, employers can require as much mandatory overtime as they need, they don’t need to provide any advance notice, and they can discipline, demote, or fire employees who refuse to work overtime.

Hourly restrictions for child laborers

One notable exception to the loophole of mandatory overtime involves workers who are younger than age 16. In the state of Arizona, children under 16 can only work 18 hours a week during a school week and 40 hours a week when school is out of session. On top of that, children under 16 can’t work more than 3 hours a day when school is in session, and they can’t work more than 8 hours a day when school is out of session. Federal law also prohibits children under 16 from working between 9:30pm – 6:00am on a school night, and between 11:00pm – 6:00am on weekends and breaks (ARS 23-233).

Hourly restrictions for contracted laborers

The other notable exception would be if you have a contract or collective bargaining agreement that addresses employee hours and overtime. If your contract limits overtime in a week or requires your employer provide advance notice of mandatory overtime, the employer is held to the provisions in the contract.

Industries with overtime restrictions

Some industries that deal with operating a commercial vehicle—namely trucking, airlines, mining, and railroad companies—have limitations on how long an employee can work in a single workday. These restrictions exist to ensure workers who are operating heavy machinery don’t get too drowsy from overworking and cause an accident. Employers in these industries who attempt to compel employees to work beyond the federally-mandated daily limit or weekly limit are liable for civil and criminal action.

Wrongful termination

While employers in Arizona have the right to sever an employment agreement at any time and for any reason (ARS 23-1501), there are laws that protect employees against wrongful termination. The following federal laws provide the foundation for an employee’s rights against wrongful termination:

  • The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) prohibits employers from considering an employee’s age (if they’re 40 or older) when terminating them
  • The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits employers from terminating an employee based on their actual or perceived disability, and it protects disabled employees from retaliatory actions for requesting reasonable accommodations for their disability
  • The Equal Pay Act (EPA) allows employees to ask coworkers and superiors about their salaries if the employee believes they aren’t receiving equal pay for equal work, and prohibits employers for terminating an employee in retaliation for asking about people’s salaries
  • The Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) prohibits an employer from terminating an employee because they filed a workplace safety complaint or participated in a workplace safety investigation
  • The Pregnancy Discrimination Act prohibits employers from terminating an employee because they’re pregnant, or due to maternal healthcare issues
  • Title III of the Consumer Credit Protection Act prohibits employers from terminating an employee because their wages are being garnished
  • Title VII of the Civil Rights Act prohibits employers from considering an employee’s race, color, religion, sex, or national origin when deciding to terminate an employment agreement, and it protects employees against retaliation for requesting reasonable accommodations for their deeply-held religious beliefs

Protected activities

Federal laws also offer protection for employees who engage in “protected activities.” Employers can’t terminate employees in retaliation for the following actions:

  • Answering questions during an employer investigation of alleged harassment
  • Asking managers or coworkers about salary information to uncover potentially discriminatory wages
  • Communicating with a supervisor or manager about employment discrimination or harassment
  • Filing or being a witness in an EEOC charge, complaint, investigation, or lawsuit
  • Refusing to follow orders that would result in discrimination
  • Requesting accommodation of a disability or for a religious practice
  • Resisting sexual advances, or intervening to protect others

How to submit a claim against an employer

If you’d like to submit a complaint against your employer, you’ll need to file the complaint with the appropriate federal agency:

  • The US Department of Labor’s (DOL) Wage and Hour Division (WHD) is the federal agency that administers and enforces the Fair Labor Standards Act and Title III of the Consumer Credit Protection Act.
  • The Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is the federal agency that administers and enforces the Occupational Safety and Health Act.
  • The US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is the federal agency that administers and enforces the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Equal Pay Act, the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.

When you submit a complaint with the EEOC, WHD, or OSHA, an agent will contact you to set up an interview to assess your complaint. In the interview, you’ll have the opportunity to present your case along with any supporting evidence and testimony. If the agent believes your complaint warrants an investigation, he or she will draft a formal complaint, ask for you to sign the complaint, and the agency will launch an investigation. If the investigation reveals a breach of federal law, the agency can reach a financial settlement with the employer, and they can seek justice through litigation. You also have the right to file a civil suit against your employer and seek compensation for the damages caused by your employer’s actions.

Statute of Limitations

Keep in mind that there is a statute of limitations for complaints against an employer. You have 180 days after your termination to file a complaint with the EEOC. Once you’ve filed a complaint, you will have 90 days to file a civil suit. When filing a complaint with the WHD, you have up to two years after your termination to file a complaint. If you’re filing a complaint with the state of Arizona, you have up to one year after your termination to file a complaint with the appropriate agency (ARS 12-541).

Need Help With An Employment Law Issue?

The state of Arizona is a great place to live and work, but knowing the employment laws will help you a lot. Whether you are a newcomer to the state or a lifelong resident, understanding your workplace protections is good for your career, and the more you know, the better.

Employment law issues can cause extreme distress and can affect productivity on the job. If you are being harassed at work, or dealing with any other employment issue, consider talking to our AZ employment law team to help you settle your case.

Call our Employment Law team at (480) 464-1111 to discuss your case today.

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