California overtime law

California Overtime Law: What You Need To Know

Do you work in California? Are you aware of the extensive protections to defend your rights, particularly regarding overtime compensation? This critical provision reflects the state’s commitment to its hard-working employees. But what do you need to know about these complex rules and regulations? 

This comprehensive guide will delve into the details of California’s overtime laws. We’ll explore their scope and those they cover, how much pay is due, and when you can claim it. It is an essential resource for current workers navigating their rights and future Californians seeking insight into the state’s labor regulations. 

Join us as we demystify everything you need about California’s overtime laws. Let’s empower you with the knowledge that can make a real difference in your working life.

We’ll go over the following topics: 

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What Are The Overtime Laws in California?

Understanding the overtime laws in California is essential for both employees and employers. Governed primarily by the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), these laws provide specific guidelines on overtime pay and set worker protections. Here’s a breakdown of the critical elements of California’s overtime laws.

Basics of Overtime Pay

The fundamental aspect of California’s overtime laws is providing extra pay beyond the standard work hours. Employees are entitled to one and a half times their regular pay rate for hours worked over 40 a week. This provision ensures that hard-working individuals are justly compensated for their additional labor.

Extended Workdays and Workweeks

California’s overtime laws go a step further when the work extends beyond certain limits within a day or week. Employees should receive double their usual rates for any hours worked over 12 in a day or any hours worked on the seventh consecutive day of a workweek. This law recognizes such extended work periods’ extra strain and potential health risks.

Exempt Employees

Not all workers are covered by California’s overtime laws. Certain “exempt” employees are not entitled to receive overtime pay. These exceptions often apply to individuals who work in executive, administrative, or professional positions. Outside sales representatives and certain computer professionals may also fall into this category. The exemption is generally based on the type of work performed, not just the job title.

Non-Exempt Employees and Minimum Wage

For employees who are not exempt from overtime requirements, California law ensures they are paid at least the minimum wage for all hours worked, including those over 40 in a week. This rule is critical to the state’s commitment to fair labor practices.

Background of California Overtime Laws

Before overtime laws were invented and enforced, employers could make their employees work endless hours for no additional pay. This was unfair, as it left workers with little to no free time and no money. The freedom to use employees in this way led to extreme exploitation and abuse.

California’s overtime laws are distinctive in U.S. labor law, setting a high bar for worker protection. Unlike federal overtime laws, these laws cater to a broader range of employment situations and include a more comprehensive set of regulations.

Overtime laws were created in 1938 to protect workers and ensure they received fair compensation for the extra hours they worked. Overtime laws vary from state to state, and both employees and employers need to be aware of the specific overtime regulations in California.

Unique Features of California’s Overtime Laws

California’s overtime laws differ significantly from federal regulations, offering employees more substantial protections. While federal law is based on the Fair Labor Standards Act, California incorporates additional rules outlined in the state’s Labor Code and Wage Orders of the Industrial Welfare Commission. This dual-layered approach ensures that California employers adhere to state and federal laws, providing a stronger safety net for employees.

Differences Between California and Federal Overtime Laws

California’s overtime laws stand out in handling the “primarily engaged” clause related to administrative exemptions. Unlike federal law, if less than half of an employee’s duties are exempt in California, the overtime exemption does not apply. This difference underscores California’s commitment to ensuring fair overtime compensation.

In essence, California’s overtime laws represent a robust commitment to employee rights and fair compensation, setting a standard for other states.

What To Do If Your Employer Doesn’t Pay You Overtime

In California, employers are required to pay their employees overtime for all hours worked over eight in a day or forty in a week. This law is set out in the California Labor Code, section 510. However, some exemptions include employees who are paid on a salary basis and those who are engaged in executive, administrative, or professional work.

If your employer does not pay you overtime as required by law, you may be able to recover the money that is owed to you. In some cases, you may also be able to recover damages and attorney’s fees. To learn more about your rights under California overtime law, you should contact an experienced employment lawyer — but here are some steps you can take in the meantime.

  • Understand Your Rights

Your journey begins with education. Knowing the ins and outs of California’s overtime laws is crucial to stand up for yourself effectively. This knowledge will guide your actions and conversations throughout the process. Spend time familiarizing yourself with the laws and how they apply to your situation.

  • Keep A Record Of The Hours You Have Worked

As you gain a deeper understanding of your rights, keep a meticulous record of your working hours. This will serve as evidence if your employer disputes your claim. Include dates, start and end times, and any time taken for breaks. Consider keeping this record digitally for easier organization and accessibility. A time-tracking solution like is your best bet. 

  • Consult With Co-Workers

Next, talk to your co-workers. They might be experiencing the same issue, and their experiences could provide additional evidence supporting your claim. Remember, there’s strength in numbers, and collective action could lead to a broader resolution within your workplace.

  • Talk To Your Employer

With a solid understanding of your rights and a record of your working hours, it’s time to approach your employer. Request a meeting to discuss your concerns. Be clear, assertive, and composed, sticking to the facts. In many cases, the issue could be due to a misunderstanding or oversight that can be resolved through direct communication.

  • Request An Overtime Pay Stub

Request one if your employer does not already provide you with an overtime pay stub. This document will clearly and concisely summarize your billable working hours and corresponding pay. Compare it to your records to ensure its accuracy.

  • Be Aware of Retaliation Protections

Remember that California law protects you from retaliation as you assert your rights. It is illegal for your employer to punish you in any way for seeking the overtime pay you are entitled to. Being aware of these protections can give you the confidence to proceed.

  • Seek Legal Advice

If your employer is unresponsive, denies your claim, or retaliates, it might be time to seek legal advice. Labor attorneys are well-versed in these situations and can guide the best course of action. They can also represent you if you decide to take legal action.

  • File A Complaint With Labor Commissioner

If you have tried to talk to your employer and still do not pay you overtime, you can file a complaint with the California labor commissioner. The labor commissioner is responsible for enforcing labor laws, including overtime pay. Provide them with all relevant documentation and information.

  • Follow Up Regularly

Once your complaint is filed, stay proactive. Regularly check the status of your case with the Labor Commissioner’s Office. Persistent follow-up can help keep your case on their radar and demonstrate your determination to see the issue resolved.

Navigating an overtime dispute can be daunting, but remember, the law is on your side. By understanding your rights and following these steps, you can confidently assert your right to fair compensation.

Are California’s Overtime Laws Applicable To You?

Not everyone is eligible for overtime pay in California. To be eligible, you must work for a private employer and meet the following criteria:

  • You are a non-exempt employee
  • The California Labor Code covers you
  • You work more than 8 hours a day or 40 hours a week
  • Your employer pays you a salary

If you meet all of the above criteria, you are entitled to overtime pay.

Who is Exempt?

While most employees in California are entitled to overtime pay, there are exceptions. These are primarily based on the nature of the job, the industry, and the relationship with the employer. If you fall into one of the following categories, your employer may not be obligated to pay overtime:

  • Government Employees: Employees directly employed by city, county, or state governments often have different work regulations and may not be subject to standard overtime laws.
  • Union Members: Most employees who are part of a union and covered by a collective bargaining agreement may have distinct rules regarding overtime based on their negotiated contract terms.
  • Exempt Positions: Professionals, administrators, and executives who meet certain criteria may be exempt from overtime pay. These criteria often involve the type of work performed and the level of decision-making responsibility.
  • Transportation Professionals: Some transportation workers, such as taxicab drivers, certain “app-based” rideshare and delivery drivers, and most truck drivers, may be exempt from standard overtime laws due to industry-specific regulations.
  • Family Employees: Employees who work for a parent, child, or spouse may not be eligible for overtime, especially if the family member owns a sole proprietorship. However, if the family member runs a company that is not a sole proprietorship, the employee may still be eligible for overtime.
  • Agricultural and Domestic Workers: While agricultural and domestic workers are entitled to overtime, special overtime rules apply to their workplaces. These rules often consider the unique demands and conditions of these work environments.

Overtime Laws FAQ

Both employees and their employers should be aware of the overtime laws in California. Here are some of the most frequently asked questions about overtime laws in California:

What is the minimum wage in California?

The minimum wage in California is currently $15.50 per hour, up from $10.50 in 2021. UC Berkeley maintains a minimum wage list of several cities and countries for research and analysis purpose. 

Are there any exemptions to the overtime law in California?

The only exemption to the overtime law in California is for employees paid on a commission basis. If an employee is not paid on a commission basis, they are entitled to overtime pay for hours worked over 8 in a day or 40 in a week.

Does my employer need to authorize overtime in advance?

No, your employer does not need to authorize overtime in advance. However, they must pay you for all hours worked over 8 in a day or 40 in a week, even if they did not authorize the overtime.

Can my employer require me to work overtime?

Your employer can require you to work overtime as long as you are paid for all hours worked over 8 in a day or 40 in a week. Your employer cannot force you to work off the clock or during your break.

Are you eligible for overtime if you work during weekends or holidays? 

Absolutely, you are. You qualify for overtime compensation for any hours worked beyond 8 in a day or 40 in a week, regardless of whether those hours fall on a weekend or a holiday.

Is comp time pay allowed in California?

Comp time pay is not allowed in California. Employees must be paid for all hours worked over 8 in a day or 40 in a week, regardless of whether they work on a weekend or holiday.

Where To Find Resources And Professional Assistance

Things can get tricky when it comes to laws about how much you are paid. This is especially true when it comes to overtime pay. In California, there are specific laws regulating overtime pay.

As an employee, you must know your rights and what you can expect when it comes to overtime. If you’re unsure where to start or have any specific questions about overtime law in California, it’s best to consult with an experienced professional.

The best places to look for resources and assistance:

  • Your employer: California employers must comply with state labor laws, including those governing overtime. If you have questions or concerns about your rights under California law, speak with your boss or human resources department.
  • The Department of Industrial Relations (DIR): The DIR is a government agency overseeing California’s labor laws. The website offers a wealth of information, including an overview of overtime law in the state and contact information for local offices where you can get more specific help.
  • An employment lawyer: If you have specific questions about your rights under California overtime law or need help negotiating with your employer, speaking with an employment lawyer may be helpful. Many lawyers offer free consultations, so it’s worth seeking advice.
  • Online resources: Various websites offer information about overtime law in California. The Department of Industrial Relations website mentioned above is an excellent place to start. Still, there are also numerous articles and blog posts written by employment lawyers that can provide more detail.

How to Calculate Your Overtime: Examples

Calculating overtime pay can seem complicated, but with a bit of understanding of the basic principles, it becomes a straightforward task. Here are three examples to illustrate how to calculate your overtime pay based on different employment scenarios:

Case 1: You’re a Salaried Employee

Let’s assume you’re a salaried, non-exempt employee earning $52,000 a year and you work an average of 40 hours a week. To calculate your overtime pay, you need first to determine your regular hourly rate.

  • Calculate the weekly pay: Divide your annual salary by the number of weeks in a year. For example, $52,000 / 52 weeks = $1,000 per week.
  • Calculate the hourly rate: Divide your weekly pay by how many hours you work in a week. For instance, $1,000 / 40 hours = $25 per hour.

If you work more than 40 hours a week or more than 8 hours a day, you are entitled to overtime pay. Your overtime rate would be 1.5 times your regular hourly rate. So, you should receive $25 * 1.5 = $37.50 for an hour of overtime.

Case 2: You Receive Hourly Payments

Suppose you’re an hourly employee earning $20 per hour. For any hour you work beyond 8 hours in a day or 40 hours in a week, you are entitled to 1.5 times your regular hourly rate, which would be $20 * 1.5 = $30 per hour.

If you work over 12 hours in a day or beyond 8 hours on the seventh consecutive day of a workweek, you are entitled to 2 times your regular hourly rate. In this case, your overtime pay would be $20 * 2 = $40 per hour.

Case 3: You Receive Sales, Bonuses, and Commissions

The calculation becomes slightly more complex if you receive additional income like sales, bonuses, and commissions. These amounts must be factored into your regular pay rate before calculating overtime.

Let’s say you receive an hourly wage of $15, and you also earn a $200 bonus in a week where you worked 45 hours. To calculate your overtime pay:

  • Calculate the total weekly earnings: Including your hourly wages and any additional earnings. In this case, ($15 * 45 hours) + $200 bonus = $875.
  • Calculate the regular hourly rate: Divide your weekly earnings by the hours worked. For instance, $875 / 45 hours = $19.44 per hour.
  • Calculate the overtime rate: This is 1.5 times your regular hourly rate, $19.44 * 1.5 = $29.16 per hour.
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Final Thoughts

Understanding California’s overtime laws is crucial to ensuring fair compensation for your hard work. Implementing a reliable time-tracking system can be a vital tool in this process, allowing you to maintain an accurate record of your work hours and identify any overtime due.

Remember, as an employee in California, you have specific rights and protections. If you suspect these rights are being compromised, seek legal counsel immediately. Being informed, accurately tracking your time, and standing up for your rights fosters a more equitable and transparent workplace. Your time is indeed valuable – make sure it’s recognized as such.