District of Columbia Overtime Laws

January 14th 2024

In the District of Columbia, employers and employees must navigate the complex landscape of labor laws. Among the crucial elements of the District of Columbia Labor Law is the regulation surrounding overtime. Complying with overtime laws is essential for employers to ensure fair treatment and compensation for their workforce. Similarly, employees are protected by these laws, which safeguard their rights and promote equitable working conditions. 

This article will provide information to successfully navigate the District of Columbia’s overtime regulations, whether you’re an employer aiming for compliance or an employee defending your rights.

This article covers:

District of Columbia Overtime Rates

In the District of Columbia, overtime rates refer to additional compensation that employees may be entitled to receive when they work beyond their regular working hours. Any employee working more than 40 hours per week is entitled to at least 1.5 times the regular hourly pay for every hour over 40 worked in a week.

Since the regular minimum wage in the District of Columbia is $17.00 per hour, this means their overtime minimum rate is $25.50 per hour. 

Overtime Entitlement in District of Columbia

According to the District of Columbia’s overtime laws, overtime pay is required for any non-exempt employees. 

Employees in non-exempt industries who make less than $684 per week ($35,568 annually) are entitled to overtime compensation.

However, an employee’s overall eligibility for overtime pay is based on job duties or business they are involved in.

Read more about Overtime Exceptions and Exemptions in the District of Columbia.

Compensatory Time in the District of Columbia

An employee who is qualified for overtime pay under the FLSA may choose to accumulate compensatory time. Compensatory time, also known as “comp time”, is permitted leave from work, and it can be used in place of overtime pay. The following are the characteristics of compensatory time authorized:

Employees are subject to a limitation of comp time, which refers to the accumulation of additional hours worked beyond the standard 40-hour workweek, and such accumulation is restricted to a maximum of 240 hours per year. This restriction ensures that employees are provided appropriate compensation and rest for their extra efforts, while also considering the need to maintain work-life balance and prevent excessive work hours. The limitation of comp time is 480 hours per year for public safety, emergency response, and seasonal employees.

Comp time should be used within 3 months of earning it unless deemed unreasonable or impractical to do so. 

Overtime for Tipped Employees in the District of Columbia

The overtime rate for tipped employees is 1.5 times their regular wage for every overtime hour worked. It is important to note that tipped employees in the District of Columbia are subject to a lower minimum wage of $8.00 per hour instead of the regular state minimum wage. 

The use of a “tip credit” system, which allows employers to pay tipped employees a reduced minimum wage, is permitted by both state and federal legislation. However, a tipped worker must accumulate enough tips to total up to the regular District of Columbia’s minimum wage of $17.00. If their wage, including tips earned, falls below the regular minimum wage, their employer must make up the difference.

That being said, an employer cannot include that tip credit in the calculation of overtime pay. This means that the entire minimum wage (following the District of Columbia’s minimum wage) must be taken into account when calculating overtime pay.

Overtime Exceptions and Exemptions in the District of Columbia

In the District of Columbia, as in many jurisdictions, employees are generally entitled to receive overtime pay for hours worked beyond a standard 40-hour workweek. However, there are exceptions and exemptions to overtime requirements that apply to certain categories of workers and industries.

White Collar employees who earn a minimum of $684 per week (professionals, administrative, executives, and outside sales), are not required to be paid an overtime rate.

In addition to the exemptions provided by the federal government, certain occupations in the state are subject to overtime restrictions. Here is a comprehensive list of those occupations:

  • US government employees
  • Airline employees
  • Commissioned employees
  • Railroad employees
  • Automobile dealership employees
  • Newspaper delivery employees
  • Babysitters
  • Volunteers
  • Companions for the aged or infirm
  • Lay members of religious organizations
  • Domestic workers
  • Seamen

Statute of Limitations For Unpaid Overtime Claims in the District of Columbia

In the District of Columbia, the statute of limitations for an employee to recover unpaid overtime wages is two years from the date of the violation. For example, an employee who files a lawsuit today can seek the recovery of overtime back wages for only the previous two years. This statute of limitations can be extended to three years if an employer has wilfully or knowingly violated overtime regulations. 

Penalties for Unpaid Overtime in the District of Columbia

Under the District of Columbia Minimum Wage Act, an employee can receive up to 4 times the amount of any unpaid overtime claims. 

It’s important to note that the overtime law in the District of Columbia can provide more flexibility compared to the federal overtime law in specific situations. This means that even if an employee is considered exempt from overtime pay under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), they may not necessarily be exempt under the state law in the District of Columbia.

Therefore, employees must have a clear understanding of their eligibility for overtime pay, as this will help them assess potential penalties that an employer may be held responsible for if they violate the overtime rules. By being aware of their rights and the applicable overtime regulations, employees can better protect themselves and take appropriate action if their employer fails to comply with the overtime requirements. 

Legal Cases Relating to Overtime Compensation in the District of Columbia

Below, we present law cases relating to fair overtime compensation for employees in the District of Columbia: 

1. Event Management Company Fails to Provide Overtime Pay to Misclassified Employee

In the case of Gallagher v. Eat to the Beat, Inc., Margaret Gallagher filed a lawsuit against Eat to the Beat (Eat-Beat) and Global Infusion Group (Global) for alleged violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and other District of Columbia laws. Eat-Beat and Global managed events worldwide including an event at a music venue called The Anthem. 

Gallagher worked exclusively for Eat-Beat and Global as an operations manager and assistant operations manager. Her duties included various tasks related to catering, events planning, and managing the concessions and kitchen. Gallagher alleged that she worked closely with any clients recruited by Eat-Beat and Global. Gallagher received a flat daily rate for event or office days, along with tips, and was also included in the tip pool for The Anthem’s employees.

Gallagher claimed that she was not provided with sick leave and overtime pay. However, Eat-Beat and Global argued that Gallagher was not their employee under the FLSA’s definition and filed a motion to dismiss the claims. The court emphasized that a complaint must contain enough factual evidence to state a plausible overtime pay claim. The court reviewed the facts and found that Gallagher had sufficiently alleged that she was an employee based on the nature of her duties, the supervision she received, and the resources provided to her by the defendants. 

Therefore, the court denied Eat-Beat and Global’s motion to dismiss.

Key lessons from this case:

  • An employer must clearly define the classification of an employee to avoid disputes on overtime pay entitlements.
  • An employee’s job duties are more telling of their overtime eligibility than their job title.
  • The employee who files a lawsuit to claim back wages bears the burden of proof to establish jurisdiction.
2. Restaurant Cleaner Exceeds Statute of Limitations for Claiming Unpaid Overtime Wages

In the case of Medina v. Kevorkian Cleaning Company, Inc., Wendy Medina filed a lawsuit in 2018 claiming that Kevorkian Cleaning Company (Kevorkian) failed to pay her the minimum wage and also denied her overtime pay. Medina worked for Kevorkian intermittently as a cleaner at various restaurants in 2015 and rejoined in 2016.

Medina’s lawsuit against Kevorkian asserted three counts under the FLSA, D.C. Minimum Wage Revision Act (DCMWRA), and D.C. Wage Payment and Collection Law. Kevorkian sought summary judgment arguing that Medina’s claims should be rejected because it was outside of the statute of limitations or because she was an independent contractor, not an employee. Additionally, Kevorkian argued that they paid Medina at least the minimum wage, and she exaggerated the number of hours she had worked.

Medina attempted to salvage her DCMWRA claim by pointing to an exception in the law that states the statute of limitations does not begin until the employer posts or provides the required notice. She argued that the defendants failed to comply with the notice and posting requirements, thus tolling the limitations period. However, the parties offered conflicting evidence regarding whether the defendants satisfied these requirements.

The court found that there were disputes over facts that affected the outcome of the case. Ultimately, the court denied most of the motions from both Medina’s and Kevorkian’s sides. However, it ruled in favor of Kevorkian on part of Medina’s FLSA claims because it was considered barred by the statute of limitations. 

Key lessons from this case:

  • Statutes of limitations apply to wage and overtime claims, and timely filing is essential for an employee to claim what they are owed.
  • Employers may be required to post notices related to wage and hour laws in conspicuous locations at the workplace. Failure to comply with these notice requirements could potentially affect the running of the statute of limitations.
  • The court cannot weigh conflicting evidence or make credibility determinations for a summary judgment. Each party has the responsibility to support their claims with relevant materials.
3. Construction Company Fail to Respond to Overtime Pay Lawsuit Leading to Default Judgment

In the case of Izaguirre v. Hunter Allied of Maryland, Inc., Izaguirre filed a collective action lawsuit against Hunter Allied of Maryland (Hunter Allied), a construction company, for failing to pay him overtime wages. Izaguirre claimed that he had worked more than 40 hours per week and had only received his regular hourly wage instead of 1.5 times his regular rate of pay.

Izaguirre sought $248 in unpaid overtime hours. The court found that Izaguirre was entitled to this amount and awarded him $992 in total, which included $744 in liquidated damages as provided by D.C. law.

After Hunter Allied failed to appear in court following the lawsuit, Izaguirre moved for a default judgment against them. The court determined that Hunter Allied was liable for the well-pleaded allegations in the complaint. The court independently assessed the amount owed to Izaguiree based on his submitted evidence, including pay stubs and a chart of overtime hours.

Ultimately, the court granted Izaguirre’s motion for default judgment and awarded him a monetary judgment of $992.

Key lessons from this case:

  • When an employer fails to respond to an overtime claim lawsuit, the employee can file for a default judgment, which means ruling in favor of the employee who filed the lawsuit.
  • The court has the authority to make an independent determination of the amount to be awarded for overtime claims when ruling on a motion for default judgment.
  • Employees who are eligible for overtime pay must be compensated at 1.5 times their regular hourly rate for any overtime hours worked. 

Learn more about the District of Columbia Labor Laws through our detailed guide.

Important Cautionary Note

When making this article we have tried to make it accurate but we do not give any guarantee that the information provided is correct or up-to-date. We therefore strongly advise you seek advice from qualified professionals before acting on any information provided in this article. We do not accept any liability for any damages or risks incurred for use of this article.