If you’ve been working long hours, you may be entitled to overtime pay. Most employees in New Jersey have the right to collect a higher overtime pay rate when they work more than 40 hours during the work week. This right is guaranteed in both federal and New Jersey law. In this article, we’ll review the provisions that establish the right to overtime pay, the workers covered by those provisions, and what to do if you think you’re entitled to pay you’re not receiving.
The Fair Labor Standards Act
The federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) establishes national standards for employers, including a provision for overtime pay. It requires employers to compensate covered employees at a rate of 1½ times their regular hourly wage for work time that exceeds 40 hours during the work week. A work week is defined as seven consecutive 24-hour periods. The week can begin at any hour of any day, but it must be consistent; employers may not change the definition of their work week to avoid overtime pay obligations. Neither may they average two or more weeks together to calculate overtime. For example, if a covered employee worked 20 hours last week and 60 hours this week, they would be entitled to the full 20 hours of overtime pay, even though their schedule averages out to just 40 hours per week. Overtime must be paid on the employee’s regular payday for the hours worked.
New Jersey Wage & Hour Law
The New Jersey Wage and Hour Law provides protections that are similar to the FSLA. Like the FSLA, New Jersey law requires payment of 1½ times an employee’s regular hourly rate for time worked in addition to 40 hours during the work week. Both laws contain exceptions to this rule, however, and New Jersey law exempts the same types of workers from overtime requirements that the FSLA does.
The FSLA covers most workers classified as employees, but it does not apply to independent contractors. To be an independent contractor, workers must control and direct their own work and meet other criteria of independence from the companies that pay them. Additionally, some types of employees are exempt from overtime rules. These include individuals who are
- Employed in a bona fide executive, administrative, or professional capacity
- Engaged to labor on a farm or employed in a hotel
- Employees of common carriers of passengers by motor bus
- Limousine drivers whose employers are in the business of operating limousines
- Employees engaged in labor relative to the raising or care of livestock
Whether your position meets the criteria for “executive, administrative, or professional” may not be easy to determine. However, federal law requires employers to pay overtime to employees in these positions who earn less than a certain minimum salary, which was set at $684 per week in 2020.
Collecting Unpaid Overtime
If your employer isn’t paying you overtime and you believe they should be, you can take action to enforce state and federal overtime laws. The New Jersey Department of Labor (DOL) handles wage and hour claims, including overtime claims, that are valued at or below $50,000. If your claim is below this threshold, you can initiate a claim online or by mail. You can find links to mail-in forms on the NJ DOL website. If your claim is worth more than $50,000, then you must file a suit with the Superior Court to recover the full amount. Employers who violate New Jersey wage and hour laws face a 10% penalty plus administrative costs and attorney's fees in addition to any back pay judgment.
Working with an Employment Attorney
When you file a complaint with the New Jersey DOL, you may choose to be represented by an attorney. Hiring an attorney can help ensure that you receive the full amount of compensation you deserve. This can be especially important if there are questions about whether your job falls into an exempt category. An experienced employment attorney will understand the nuances of the law and be able to understand what evidence is needed to establish your claim. If you file a case with the Superior Court, legal representation is critical for the best possible outcome.
The attorneys at the Mark Law Firm are experienced at enforcing New Jersey wage and hour laws and representing clients in other employment law disputes. To learn more about working with us on your overtime claim, see our FAQ page.
 29 USC § 201–219
 N.J.S.A. 34:11-56a et seq.