Overtime Laws Uncovered: What You Need to Know in California

Business.com / HR Solutions / Last Modified: February 22, 2017

Unpaid overtime pay can cost thousands or millions to a business that isn't abiding by California laws. Make sure your business stays safe.

Overtime pay in California is compensation for working more than 40 hours per week or eight hours per day. Whether you are required by law to receive overtime pay depends on a number of factors which we will cover below.

However, if you have not been paid for overtime that you believe that you are entitled to, you should understand your legal rights.

Here is what you need to know about overtime laws in California to help you determine if you can seek compensation from your employer.

What Constitutes as Overtime?

Under California law, eight hours of labor is considered as a day's work. Employment that goes beyond eight hours in a single workday or more than six days in any workweek is allowed when the employee is compensated as such:

  • One and a half times the employee's regular rate of pay for hours that were worked in excess of the eight-hour workday up to 12 hours in a single day, as well as, for the first eight hours worked on the seventh consecutive day of work in a workweek; and
  • Two times the employee's normal rate of pay for all hours that were worked in excess of 12 hours in a single workday and for all hours worked in excess of eight hours on worked on the seventh consecutive day of work in a workweek.

The regular rate doesn’t just include an employee's normal hourly rate. It actually refers to the employee's rate of pay once the other types of compensation that the employee receives have been taken into account. Additionally, the overtime wages are required to be paid no later than the next payday for the next regular payroll period following the period in which the overtime wages were earned.

Only hours that are worked in a straight-time may be applied to the 40-hour workweek limit. However, employees are also required to allow employers to obtain knowledge about unauthorized overtime worked so that employers have the opportunity to obey the law.

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Which Employees Are Exempt From Overtime?

Additionally, certain types of employees are exempt under the law from receiving overtime pay. These employees are:

  • Executive employees: namely managers and supervisors
  • Professional employees: employees who perform tasks that are intellectual, creative, and vary in nature
  • Administrative employees: employees who perform non-manual or office work that is directly related to the management or operations of the business.

To qualify as an exempt employee, the employees must earn a salary of more than $33,000 per year even if they meet the criteria given above. The full list of employees who exempt from overtime laws is available here.

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How Do You Know if You Are a Victim?

Every overtime claim is different. If you are trying to determine whether you should file a claim, you should know when your employer is in violation of the law.

You may be a victim if:

  • Your employer has misclassified your overtime status as exempt to avoid paying you overtime or other benefits.
  • You have not been compensated for valid overtime hours worked.
  • Your employer has not included non-discretionary bonuses in your regular rate of pay when calculating your overtime rate of pay.
  • Your employer has delayed your payment for overtime worked beyond the next pay period following the period in which the overtime pay was earned.
  • You worked unauthorized overtime that your employer knew or should have known that you were working and you have not been paid for this overtime.
  • Your employer has retaliated against you after you have filed a claim for unpaid overtime wages.

Types of Situations That Warrant You to Seek Legal Action

While employers can require employees to work overtime, employees may not opt out of being paid all overtime compensation. In addition, all salaried employees must be paid overtime unless they meet the criteria for exempt status from overtime pay.

If an employer has not paid the overtime wages that you are entitled to, you can file a wage claim with the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement (the Labor Commissioner's Office), or you can sue the employer in court with the assistance of an employment lawyer. If you are no longer working for the employer, you can also make a claim for the waiting time penalty pursuant to Labor Code Section 203.

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What Should You Do if You Believe You Have an Overtime Case?

Employees who have not received overtime pay for all time over 40 hours worked in a single workweek may be eligible to file a lawsuit against their employers. Contact a law firm who specializes in employment law in your state. 

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