Generally speaking, overtime refers to a situation in which you agree to work over 40 hours in any given week in exchange for receiving time and a half, i.e. extra pay for your additional time. For many, this is a goal to strive for, as workers often consider the extra pay worth the hours.
But this is not the case for every worker. More importantly, if you find yourself in a position where your employer wants you to work overtime, what options do you have? Can you say no? Can an employer force you into overtime anyway?
Cornell Law School states that an employer cannot force you to work over 40 hours a week unless paid appropriately. However, what happens if your employer offers you the appropriate pay and you still do not want to stay beyond your usual hours?
Unfortunately, while you do have the right to refuse the request for overtime, your employer also reserves the right to fire you if you do. The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) only specifies that an employer must give the right payment for asking a worker to take on extra hours. They do not protect workers from those potentially unwanted extra hours if the employer in question compensates employees properly.
Of course, the situation differs from business to business and employer to employer. Many will simply look for another worker to take on those extra hours if you cannot, for whatever reason. However, an employer is within their rights to fire someone and seek a worker more open to taking on extra hours if you refuse, and you do not have protection against that.