How to Justify Overtime to your Boss

How to Justify Overtime to your Boss
Page content

The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) stipulates overtime wages at one-and-a-half time normal wages for employees working in excess of 40 hours a workweek. Some states such as California have enacted laws that require employers to pay higher overtime wages. The FLSA and state legislations may not cover all employees, but individual contracts and agreement with unions may extend the scope of overtime to non-covered employees. The extra pay out means that eligible employees may still need to convince the manager or supervisor of the need for overtime before they agree to pay you for it.

One-Off Overtime

Justifying one-off overtime is relatively easy, and requires articulating your case. For instance, if an employee in the next shift cannot come owing to a personal emergency, and no other employee remains on call, the employee on duty may continue on overtime. In normal circumstances, detail the reasons why overtime is needed in the first place, and why the work cannot be done during normal work hours, postponed until the next working day, or be distributed to others.

Consider an example of preparing a new sales report before a meeting with a new client. The report may be outside the remit of a normal job routine, but is needed urgently for the client meeting that comes up at short notice. To justify overtime for preparing this report, the employee needs to list out:

  • Routine sales and marketing jobs that leave him with no spare time during normal work hours.
  • Reasons why no one else can prepare the report. Possible reasons could be no one else being familiar with the nuances, and therefore require double the time to do so, non-availability of subordinates to delegate clerical tasks such as cross-checking facts or proofreading.
  • The importance of the report. For instance, how this report would help in reinforcing the sales pitch and possibly close the deal.

One-off or temporary overtime is normal in many organizations. The employees receive either the higher wage or compensatory time off. Managerial and supervisory staff may actually be required to work overtime to finish pending work or demands without expecting to be compensated for the same.

Sustained Overtime

Justifying overtime on a sustained or long-term basis is more difficult, as many of the ill-effects of overtime manifest over time. Employees looking at how to justify overtime in such cases require quantifying the benefits and ill-effects of overtime work, and striking a trade-off.

Assume a web designer requests overtime of two hours a day to service a new client, which may last for months. The employer could hire a new employee at normal wages rather than pay 1.5 times the normal wages to the existing employee and overload him. The employee’s possible justifications to claim overtime could be:

  • Familiarity and experience with the client or nature of client requirements, allowing for faster and higher quality output. The faster output would negate excess overtime wages, and client satisfaction owing to high quality output without the client having to spend time reviewing and seeking revisions heightens the possibility of future business.
  • Ability to work with the existing licenses and resources, without having to set up new infrastructure for a new employee.
  • Adopting a healthy lifestyle such as eight hours sleep, good dietary choices, and a regular exercise regimen that negates fatigue and adverse health effects of two additional hours of work.
  • Employer not having to invest time, money, and effort in training a new employee.

Ill-Effects of Overtime

How to Justify Overtime

Employees may gain temporarily by working overtime, as they get 1.5 times the normal wages for extra hours worked. It may also provide them with a sense of accomplishment and improve performance ratings. Research however, proves that sustained overtime leads to many ill-effects for workers such as loss of productivity, increased risk of injury, poor work-life balance, and general debility.

The organization too looses out, for it could hire additional employees at normal wages, or make some other employee do the work, rather than pay additional wages to the employer, and risk reduced productivity or upsetting work schedules by granting compensatory time off in lieu of overtime.

Overtime is not an avenue for employees to make extra money, and neither is it a reward for good work or punishment for bad work. Considering the ill-effects of overtime to both the company and the employee, bosses may not agree to allow the employee to work overtime, except for special one-of emergencies. Most organizations consider overtime as a “last resort” to get work done on time, and approve the same only for emergencies that cannot be performed during regular working hours. Many organizations that have made employees work overtime on a sustained basis have reviewed the decision when faced with declining productivity and higher absenteeism levels. Approvals for overtime require strong reasons and convincing that it would not lead to any ill-effects.


  1. United States Department of Labor. “Wages-Overtime Pay.” Retrieved July 10, 2011.
  2. U. S. Department of Health and Human Services: Overtime and Extended Work Shifts:Recent Findings on Illnesses, Injuries, and Health Behaviors." Retrieved July 10, 2011.
  3. Susan L. Koen. “Bare-Bones HeadCount & High Workforce Fatigue Create a Downward Performance Spiral & Increased Costs.” Retrieved July 10, 2011

Image Credit:

  1. Jones
  2. Johnson