Everything You Need to Know About California Overtime Laws

California employees are often forced to work beyond the typical 8-hour workday. Here’s everything you need to know about overtime laws in California.

A legal workday is 8 hours long, and any amount of time beyond a 6-day workweek is considered overtime. Employees should therefore be compensated for any additional labor. The employee should be paid 1.5 times their normal rate of pay for all additional hours worked, up to 12 hours a day, and 8 hours a day on the 7th consecutive day of work. Furthermore, an employee can be compensated double their normal hourly rate if they exceed 12 hours of work in a given day, and 8 hours on their 7th consecutive day of work.

What Happens if the Employee works Unauthorized Overtime?

Employers in California are required to pay their employees’ overtime, whether or not they are authorized. An authorized employee is someone whose duties require them to be in a regulated area to perform their work, and thus is specifically assigned by their employee to work in that location.

Even if an employee is unauthorized, and therefore can perform their work responsibilities from any location, the employer must still pay overtime at 1.5 times the employee’s regular rate if they work 8-12 hours more than their typical shift. While an employer is obligated to pay their employee overtime–– authorized or not–– they can still institute an overtime policy. If the employee does not follow this policy, there may be consequences. Although a policy can be implemented, there are California wage and hours laws that require an employee to be compensated for any work performed, whether or not they are required to do so.

An employee cannot intentionally prevent their employer from knowing whether or not they have worked overtime, and then later request their payment. The employer must have full knowledge of their employee’s overtime hours ahead of time, regardless of whether or not the employee is authorized. Conversely, the employer is responsible for keeping accurate records of their employee’s regular and overtime hours and paying them accordingly.

Is Overtime a Requirement?

Yes, an employer can technically determine their employee’s hours, including overtime hours, and has the authority to penalize an employee if they refuse to work extra hours. However, no such penalty or termination can occur if the employee refuses to work the 7th consecutive day in a given workweek. The employer would then be subject to penalty if they deprived their employee of their right to a day of rest. The employer must inform their employee of their entitlement to a day of rest, and the employee can make the decision of whether or not they would like to work overtime on their day of rest.

Related: California Labor Code 510: Overtime Law

What Happens if the Employer Doesn’t Pay Overtime?

If the employer is aware of their employee’s overtime hours and does not compensate them appropriately, the employee can file a wage claim. Information on how to file a wage claim with the California Division of Labor Standards Enforcement (i.e. the Labor Commissioner’s Office) can be found here. If the employee has since stopped working with their employer and is still entitled to overtime pay, they can file a claim for the waiting time penalty in Labor Code Section 203.

Related: California Labor Code Section 203: Waiting Time Penalty

No Option to Waive Overtime Compensation

Employees must be paid all of their overtime compensation under California law. Even if an employer and employee previously worked out an agreement where the employee makes a lesser wage, the employer is still obligated to compensate their employee for all of their overtime hours worked.

Exceptions/Exemptions to the Overtime Law

In this case, an exception means that a certain classification of employees would still be paid overtime, even if their situation differs from the norm outlined in California’s overtime law. An exemption occurs when the overtime law does not apply to a set of employees.

Related: CA Labor Code 515: Exempt vs. Nonexempt Employees

General exceptions to the overtime law can be found here, and an extensive list of specific exemptions for employees can be found here.

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