Overview of California Overtime Laws

The basics of California overtime laws are simple, but, like most legal issues, contain a number of exceptions, exemptions, and special circumstances. To get the entire picture, employers and employees will need to familiarize themselves with all these variations.
In comparison to most other states in the Union, California workers are entitled to more generous overtime rules. In contrast, employers must carefully pay attention to regular rates of pay and other special circumstances in order to properly pay their workers.

Overtime Basics

According to the State of California, the overtime provisions are applicable to non exempt employees who are 18 years or older and any minor employee who is 16 or 17 years of age who doesn’t legally have to attend school or is otherwise prohibited from doing that particular job. If these employees work more than eight hours in any workday or more than 40 hours in a workweek, they are entitled to one and one-half times their regular rate of pay for those extra hours.
Employees earn one and one-half times their regular rate when they work between eight and 12 hours in a single day and for the first eight hours they work on a seventh consecutive day in one week.
Workers also receive double their regular pay rate when working more than 12 hours in any workday and for working more than eight hours on the seventh consecutive workday in a single workweek.

Regular Rates of Pay

The regular rate of pay is the normal amount of money employees earn for their position. Various types of compensation can make up the regular rate of pay, including hourly earnings, salary, commissions, and “piecework earnings.” All of these compensation types must meet the California legal minimum wage, which became $11 per hour in January 2018 for employers with 26 or more employees and $10.50 per hour for employers with 25 employees or less. (More 2018 California labor updates are available here.)
An employee’s regular rate of pay is determined by the agreed regular hours if they are less than California’s legal maximum hours. For instance, some employees may only work 30 hours. Even if an employee works more than their regular hours, they are not entitled to overtime unless they exceed 40 hours per week, work more than eight hours per day, or meet any other overtime regulation.
Occasionally, workers earn two or more rates of pay from their employer in one workweek. In that case, a weighted average is used. This average is figured by dividing the total workweek earnings by the number of hours the employee worked. Again, California minimum wage law must be followed.

Additional Overtime FAQS

Following are common questions and answers about California overtime law:

Can I be forced to work overtime?

An employer can require employees to work overtime. They are entitled to set a worker’s schedule, and if they schedule overtime, the worker must comply or face disciplinary action and possible termination. However, an employee cannot be forced to work on the seventh day of a workweek. They are guaranteed one “rest day” per week or work.

Can I earn overtime when I’m a salaried employee?

Salaried employees may be entitled to overtime in certain situations. However, they may be exempt from overtime under federal and state law or by Industrial Welfare Commission Wage Orders provisions.

Do I have to accept overtime pay?

Employees cannot waive their rights to overtime pay. Even if the worker is willing to take regular compensation for these additional hours, the employer must follow the law and compensate the employee properly.

Can my employer postpone overtime pay?

Overtime wages must be paid by the payday for the next regular payroll period after the employee earned the overtime wages. In short, they may be paid the following payday if the employer wishes. The worker’s regular wages still must be paid as usual and not delayed.

Are my bonuses subject to overtime rules?

Non discretionary bonuses are included in the regular rate of pay when they are determined by the number of hours worked, made as an incentive to stay with the employer, or as a reward for job performance. In those instances, a flat sum bonus has to be divided by the maximum regular hours worked during the pay period.
Some payments are excluded from the regular rate of pay, including gifts, discretionary bonuses, expense reimbursements, etc.

I put in unauthorized overtime. Does my employer have to pay me overtime rates?

Employers must pay for unauthorized overtime. Although they may discipline an employee for working more than scheduled, the employer still must pay the applicable overtime. California law holds that the employer either knows or should know how many hours an employee is working.

Which states have the best overtime laws?

California, along with New York, Illinois, Pennsylvania, and Colorado, has the most generous overtime laws for workers.

How can I recover unpaid overtime?

How long do I have to claim unpaid overtime?
Employees can file for unpaid overtime for either 2, 3, or 4 years after the pay period, depending on the nature of the claim.
California workers can also bring wage claims as class actions. They may also benefit from one of these cases without having to “opt-in.”
California overtime laws are detailed and somewhat complex, but in general, they protect the worker. Employers must follow these laws or face action from the state or individual employees. No employee can work overtime hours without receiving the mandated compensation. While employers can force some overtime on their workers, there are limits to the time employees must work. Everyone in the California workforce needs to understand these laws to keep businesses in compliance.
Remember, this is not official legal advice. If you have any concerns, it’s best to consult an employment lawyer. 

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