Wisconsin Overtime Laws

January 23rd 2024

It is common for employees to work beyond their normal hours of work. However, according to Wisconsin Labor Laws, employers are required to compensate employees for their overtime.

In Wisconsin, you are entitled to time-and-a-half for every hour worked over 40 in a week.

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

This article covers:

Wisconsin Overtime Rates

Overtime law in Wisconsin states that for any hours worked beyond a total of 40 in one work week, the majority of hourly employees in Wisconsin have the right to an overtime pay rate.

Overtime in Wisconsin is set at 1.5 times the regular hourly rate for workers who exceed 40 hours a week. 

Since the regular Wisconsin minimum wage is $7.25 per hour, this makes Wisconsin’s overtime minimum pay $10.88 per hour (1.5 times the minimum wage).

Overtime Entitlement in Wisconsin

According to Wisconsin overtime laws, overtime pay is required for any non-exempt employees.

Generally, employees who earn below $684 a week ($35,568 per year) and work in a non-exempt industry are entitled to overtime pay.

However, an employee’s overall eligibility for overtime pay will be based on what the job duties are as well as what type of business they are in.

Read more about Overtime Exceptions and Exemptions in Wisconsin.

Unauthorized Overtime in Wisconsin

In Wisconsin, any employee who performs unauthorized overtime work is still entitled to overtime pay. Unauthorized overtime refers to any extra work performed without prior approval.

Despite not getting approval, an employee who works unauthorized hours is still performing work for the benefit of the company. Therefore, employers have to compensate employees accordingly. 

It is important to note that although overtime pay can still be provided, employers do have a right to invoke disciplinary action against their employees.

“Compensatory Time” in Wisconsin

In Wisconsin, if an employer chooses to offer compensatory time, “comp time”, to their employee, they are obligated to provide a rate of time-and-a-half for any overtime hours worked.

Nongovernment employers must ensure that employees use their comp time within 31 days of when the time is earned.

Overtime for Tipped Employees in Wisconsin

A tipped employee in Wisconsin is entitled to overtime compensation. However, their minimum wage is lower than the standard state minimum wage.

In this case, the Wisconsin minimum wage is $7.25 and the minimum tipped employee wage is $2.33.

If a tipped employee works overtime hours, their overtime rate will be calculated based on the full minimum wage, and not the lower wage that they are being paid.

Overtime Exceptions and Exemptions in Wisconsin 

In Wisconsin, the following salary thresholds are considered when categorizing an employee as exempt from overtime pay:

  • For public employees – $35,568 annually or $684 weekly
  • For executives and administrative employees – $36,400 annually or $700 weekly
  • For professionals – $39,000 annually or $750 weekly

According to Wisconsin law, the following professions are also not subject to overtime provisions:

  • Agricultural employees
  • Certain administrative, executive, and professional employees 
  • Certain outside sales and commissioned employees
  • Taxi cab drivers 
  • Certain employees of motor carriers who are covered by federal transportation regulations
  • Salespersons, parts personnel, and mechanics employed by motor vehicle dealers; employees of movie theaters

Statute of Limitations For Unpaid Overtime Claims in Wisconsin

According to Wisconsin law, the statute of limitations for filing a complaint regarding overtime (or other unpaid wages) is 2 years.

For willful violations, the statute of limitations is 3 years.

Retaliation for Reporting Overtime Violations in Wisconsin

According to the Fair Employment Law in Wisconsin, an employer is not allowed to retaliate against an employee for asserting their rights to overtime compensation. 

If an employee chooses to file a complaint or even tell their employer their intentions to file a complaint, they cannot be punished or terminated.

Legal Cases Relating to Overtime Compensation in Wisconsin

Below, we present law cases relating to fair overtime compensation for employees in Wisconsin: 

1. Unclear Regulations Lead to Confusion About Employee’s Overtime Eligibility

In the case of Paczkowski, Katy v. My Choice Family Care, Inc., Katy Paczkowski, a care manager working for My Choice, filed a lawsuit claiming that My Choice did not provide overtime wages for hours worked more than 40 per week. My Choice, a private “managed care organization”, provided healthcare and related services to adults and seniors with disabilities. That being said, My Choice argued that as a nonprofit organization, it was not subjected to Wisconsin’s overtime regulations.

The court had to interpret provisions of Wisconsin’s administrative code to determine whether My Choice was exempt from the state’s overtime regulations. Since the legislature is ambiguous, the court relied on the language, structure, and context of the state regulations to determine whether or not My Choice would be exempt.

Ultimately, the court determined that My Choice, as a nonprofit organization, is not subject to Wisconsin’s overtime regulations. The court decided to grant My Choice’s motion to dismiss Paczkowski’s claims.

Key lessons from this case:

  • It is important to fully understand the language and interpretation of Wisconsin law to properly determine overtime eligibility.
  • The court’s need to deeply analyze the context of nonprofit organizations in the Wisconsin Administrative Code shows how small characteristics in a business can alter its entitlement to certain benefits in the state legislature.
  • The court plays an important role in interpreting and clarifying unclear regulations when it comes to disputes about overtime eligibility.
2. Vacation Resort Avoiding Overtime Compensation for Employees by Altering Timesheets

In the case of Bitner, Thomas et al v. Wyndham Vacation Resorts, Inc., Thomas Bitner and Toshia Parker filed a lawsuit against Wyndham Vacation Resorts (Wyndham) for violating the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and Wisconsin state law. Btiner and Parker claimed that Wyndham had required them to work without overtime compensation for hours beyond 40 per week.

Bitner and Parker, who were sales representatives, claimed that they were asked to clock out when they were not actively pursuing a buyer, even though they were required to remain on Wyndham premises. They were also asked to clock out despite attending meetings. Bitner and Parker also claimed that their time entries were edited to show reduced working hours. Due to that, Bitner and Parker accused Wyndham of willfully violating the FLSA.

Wyndham filed a motion to dismiss the case but the court affirmed that Bitner and Parker had strong allegations.

Ultimately, the court decided to favor Bitner and Parker for their overtime violation claims. A settlement was approved which awarded $7,500 each to Bitner and Parker. The settlement also included an amount of $546,360.00 in attorney fees.

Key lessons from this case:

  • Employers should be aware that requiring employees to clock out or work off-the-clock when they are still performing work-related tasks is a violation of overtime laws.
  • It is illegal for employers to manipulate or edit employee time entries to reduce working hours artificially.
  • Manipulating an employee’s time entries to alter their recorded working hours can be seen as a willful violation.
3. Nurse Clinician Tries to Claim Overtime Pay Despite Being An Exempt Employee

In the case of Magnussen v. State of Wisconsin, Sarah Magnussen, a nurse clinician for the Wisconsin State Department of Corrections, claimed that the State of Wisconsin (State) had exempted her from receiving overtime pay. The State treated all nurse clinicians as salaried employees, meaning they received a specific amount of base pay for every pay period during which they work. Based on this, the State categorized Magnussen as exempt from overtime.

Magnussen argued that nurse clinicians should not be exempted from overtime pay based on their pay structure. In addition to a salary, nurse clinicians were entitled to receive supplemental pay, which is offered for positions where incentives are needed to retain employees. They were also entitled to additional compensation when they work for over 40 hours per week. However, this additional compensation was calculated according to the Wisconsin Compensation Plan (WCP) instead of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).

Magnussen argued that the rate given by the WCP is significantly less than the FLSA. Magnussen claimed that the method of calculating her pay with add-ons should have made her a nonexempt employee. Despite that, the State filed for a summary judgment, arguing that Magnussen satisfies the criteria of the “salary basis” test.

The court found that Magnussen’s records supported the State’s argument that she is an exempt employee and granted the State’s motion for summary judgment.

Key lessons from this case:

  • The salary basis test is one of the criteria used to determine whether an employee is exempt from overtime provisions.
  • Understanding how compensation structures are evaluated regarding exemption status and overtime calculations is important for both employers and employees.
  • Employees should be educated about the federal and state laws regarding overtime to avoid misunderstanding their rights.

Learn more about Wisconsin 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.