Some workers are fortunate to have a boss who will reimburse them for work-related expenses. For many, this means turning in receipts and receiving a check for the money spent. For others, it involves a per diem rate plan. Per diem, which means “per day,” is an allowance of money an employer provides to cover an employee’s work-related expenses such as travel, lodging or meals. Often, this allowance is above one’s normal hourly rate, but many do not realize that a per diem can affect their overtime rate.

Offering a per diem allowance is not something federal or West Virginia laws require. However, some employers do so because it provides them with a tax benefit. More importantly, employees may have more satisfaction if they have an allowance to cover their expenses. Unfortunately, not every employer understands or complies with federal laws concerning overtime pay for employees who also receive a per diem.

If an hourly employee works more than 40 hours in a week, his or her employer must pay one- and one-half times the worker’s regular pay for the additional hours worked. It is important to note that this is not pay above the West Virginia minimum wage but above the worker’s regular pay. If a worker’s regular pay includes a per diem allowance, that amount must be calculated in the worker’s overtime rate. When an employer fails to do so, the employee may be a victim of wage theft.

Labor laws can be complex and confusing since they vary from state to state and change often. Those who worry that their employer is not paying the appropriate amount of overtime may feel compelled to demand what is rightfully theirs. However, it is wise to first obtain legal counsel and advice from an experienced attorney who is well-versed in wage and overtime issues.