Many states draft their own wage and hour laws. These address things like overtime pay and minimum wage. As long as the laws do not violate the federal wage and hour laws, companies have to follow them.
For instance, the federal minimum wage is set at $7.25. Other states have vastly higher minimum wages, meaning that companies cannot pay just $7.25. They have to pay the higher limit and follow state laws. Tennessee, on the other hand, does not have a minimum wage law. This means that employers still have to follow the federal regulations and pay at least $7.25.
Similarly, Tennessee does not have any overtime laws on the books. What does this mean for your rights as an employee? If you work overtime, do you deserve to get paid more for it, or can your employer just pay you the standard hourly wage you agreed to when you took the job?
Federal law does address overtime, saying that a worker who puts in more than 40 hours during a standard work week has to get paid more for those extra hours. This rate is set at 1.5 times the regular rate paid to that employee.
So, if you make $10 per hour on a normal day, you would need to earn at least $15 per hour for any overtime hours you put in. Say you worked for 45 hours during the week. You would make $400 for the first 40 hours -- at $10 per hour -- and then you would make $75 for the final five hours. That gives you a weekly total of $475 before taxes.
Because Tennessee opted not to create its own overtime laws, employers have to follow this federal regulation.
One important thing to note, however, is that the federal law stipulates what has to be paid when breaking 40 hours per week. It says nothing about working more than eight hours per day. So, if you have to work a long day, do not assume that you get overtime pay for those extra hours.
For instance, maybe you normally work four eight-hour shifts, for 32 hours per week. One day, your employer has you stay for 10 hours. You still get paid for those extra two hours, but you only get paid your standard hourly rate because it brings you up to 34 hours for the week. You do not get time-and-a-half.
Your legal options
Do you think that your employer has violated your rights by refusing to pay you extra money that you earned? Just because Tennessee doesn't have specific overtime laws does not mean you don't deserve overtime pay. Make sure you know about all of your legal options.