Overtime laws divide the workforce into two categories:
1. Salaried exempt employees not entitled to overtime; and
2. Hourly nonexempt employees entitled to overtime.
Which category are you in? It depends on what your job duties are. The U.S. Department of Labor's fair pay website does a good job of describing the type of duties that qualify an employee as exempt and not entitled to overtime.
What is an employer to do when it realizes it wrongly classified an employee as exempt and failed to pay overtime?
Usually, an employer will simply change the employee's classification, begin to track his or her hours worked, and start paying overtime.
But, what about the years that the employee has spent working in the wrong classification and losing out on overtime? That employee likely has a good claim against his or her employer for all of the back overtime worked over the past two or three years. That person should consider meeting with an attorney immediately to discuss his or her options. I say immediately because the statute of limitations in overtime cases run from each paycheck that should have included overtime, but did not. For an employee who was wrongly denied overtime for more than two years, the longer he or she waits to assert a claim, the fewer pay periods that the employee can challenge in Court.