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Can my employer force me to work overtime?

Whether you love your job or dread going to work, the fact is that it helps to pay your bills. You may even find comfort during a long shift in remembering your plans for your money, such as paying off a debt, saving for vacation or restocking your pantry at the end of the week. In fact, you may even look forward to overtime and the extra wages.

While time is certainly money if you are an hourly employee, you may feel that your workday is unreasonably long. If you have family responsibilities or other obligations, you may worry when your boss says you have to stay past your scheduled time. Those overtime hours may seem attractive, but what if your employer does not give you the option of working longer hours?

Understanding the law

When you accepted the job, your employer may have explained that the regular shift was eight hours long. This is a normal workday under Ontario's Employment Standards Act, which sets the rules with which employers must comply. In certain industries, however, employees may have a longer workday but no longer than 13 hours. If this applies to your job, your employer should have asked you to sign a document agreeing to the longer shift.

The ESA says that the maximum number of hours an employer can make you work each week is 48, and any hours over 44 are overtime. For overtime hours, you must receive one and a half times what you normally earn in an hour. It may seem easier to trust your employer to keep track of your hours, but it is always wise to keep a record for yourself in case there are discrepancies.

What are my rights?

One factor that may hinder you from earning the amount of money you deserve is if your employer has misclassified you as an independent contractor instead of an employee to avoid the rules of the ESA. If you are uncertain whether your job qualifies you as an employee or an independent contractor, you would be wise to learn the difference to be sure you are not missing out on the protections and the rights the ESA provides.

You may have concerns that your employer may be forcing you to work beyond the limits of the law or denying you the pay you have rightly earned for your time. You can learn more about your rights and your options if you feel your employer may be violating the ESA by contacting a legal professional who is familiar with Ontario employment laws.

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