Overtime rules for veterinary practices

Operate by the book when it comes to the Fair Labor Standards Act
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Jun 01, 2009

The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) doesn't limit the number of hours an employee can work in any week as long as the employee is at least 16 years old. However, when an hourly staff member works more than 40 hours in any work week, you must pay the hours in excess of 40 at the overtime rate of 1.5 times his or her regular wage. And you must compensate salaried employees at overtime rates for hours they work in excess of 40 if they earn less than $425 per week. In this case, it makes sense for salaried workers to keep time cards just as hourly workers are required to do.

Be aware that the FLSA doesn't require the payment of holiday, sick, or vacation pay, and non-worked hours such as holiday pay or vacation pay aren't counted as "worked time" for the purposes of overtime. For example, an employee can work 35 hours in a week and be paid eight hours for a holiday that occurred that week, but he or she doesn't receive overtime pay. Even though the total number of paid hours exceeds 40, the employee actually worked 35 hours.

Now, if an employee works more than 40 hours in a work week and in addition, he or she works on a weekend, holiday, or regular rest day, you're required to pay overtime. You must pay employees for overtime hours worked. Even though current rules don't allow compensatory time off in a different work week in lieu of payment, it's certainly acceptable to alter schedules within the same week—without changing the defined work week—so that a staff member doesn't work overtime. Altering a schedule for one week to compensate for overtime hours in the previous week isn't allowed even if the employee is paid every two weeks. Overtime pay must be paid within the pay period that the employee performed the work—the next regular pay day.

Phil Seibert, CVT, is a consultant with SafetyVet in Calhoun, Tenn. Send questions or comments to