Can the restaurant refuse to pay me for overtime hours that weren’t “pre-approved” by my manager?

Employees of all kinds, including those who work in restaurants, nail salons, hotels, and other tipped positions, often wrangle with their employers’ difficult overtime policies. While the employer expects workers to get prior approval to work overtime hours, the reality of their work situation means that overtime hours may be impossible to predict—so some employees end up illegally working overtime for free. Although many tipped employees are told that overtime must be formally approved ahead of time with a manager or higher-up, these kinds of company policies don’t exempt the tipped employee from pay—and they don’t exempt employers from their responsibility to follow the law.

Complicated Overtime Loopholes Don’t Exempt Employers From the Law

Most tipped employees should be paid for all of the time they actually work, and that should include compensation for overtime if the employee works more than 40 hours in a week. If you work the hours, your employer is required by law to compensate you—even if you didn’t get “pre-approval” to work overtime.

However, things can get complicated for tipped employees when the employer has a “pre-approval” policy in place. Although they should be compensated if they work, employees could be held responsible by their employers for violating some overtime policies, so some care is needed when considering your employee rights and options. If you have questions, the easiest way to get detailed, personalized answers about your situation is to reach out to an attorney who has experienced working with the victims of wage abuse.

Are you ready to get started? Order your free copy of our book, 10 Biggest Mistakes That Can Hurt Your Wage & Overtime Claim, which was created by our employment law team to be a first step for employees who have questions about wage and overtime abuses—or reach out to us by phone or live chat for immediate assistance.


Galvin B. Kennedy
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Galvin Kennedy is a founding partner of Kennedy Hodges. He focuses his practice to overtime and wage claims.