Overtime is generally understood as work that goes beyond 40 hours a week. Overtime pay is usually one and a half times the employee's hourly rate. However, the right to overtime pay has significant limitations, and just because you work more than 40 hours does not mean you get overtime.
Not all employees are entitled to overtime pay. In fact, there are large categories of exempt employees. The law states that professionals, managers and executives are not entitled to overtime. Exemptions cover a wide range of workers, from teachers and accountants to truck drivers and farmers. As always, there are exceptions to the rule, so check with a labor and employment attorney if you're not sure.
Just as there are exemptions for employees, there are exemptions for employers. If the company you work for has annual revenue of $500,000 or less, then they are exempt from paying overtime. The number of employees does not affect an employer's status, however. Even if you are the only employee, you can be eligible for overtime.
Collecting past-due overtime
You have two years to collect overtime pay that you didn't receive. The deadline is longer -- three years -- if your employer knew they were violating the law when they withheld your overtime pay. Overtime collection attorneys charge one of two ways, either contingency (they receive a portion of what you end up collecting) or hourly. In many cases, your employer will end up paying your attorney fees if you win.