The California overtime law requires non-exempt employees to receive overtime pay whenever they work for extra hours. Workers are entitled to overtime for working more than eight hours in one day. Workers are entitled to overtime for working more than forty hours in a single workweek and more than six days in a single workweek.  According to California laws, employers should pay, time and a half for more than the hours previously mentioned. The Workers Compensation Attorney Group (Long Beach) assists clients seeking overtime compensation.

Overview of Overtime Law

Under California law, an employee is entitled to double-time overtime pay for working more than twelve hours in a single workday. An employee is also entitled to double compensation for working more than eight hours on the seventh day of a workweek. The law requires employers to pay overtime to employees even for unauthorized overtime that the employer did not request or need. The law app as long as the employer was aware and allowed the employee to work overtime.

All California employees, except independent contractors, are entitled to overtime pay. An employee cannot receive overtime if they are an exempt employee according to the wage and hour law. This law exempts employees from overtime and meal and rest breaks. An employee working under a workweek schedule does not qualify for overtime pay. 

Under the California labor laws, independent contractors do not enjoy the same privileges and rights as employees, including the right to get overtime pay.  The law defines an independent contractor as a person who offers a service according to an agreement. The contractor agrees to deliver the desired result for a specific payment.  An independent contractor maintains control over how to achieve the desired results. 

Your employer still owes you overtime pay even in instances where they have not authorized you to work overtime. However, you only get overtime pay if the employer permits you to work overtime. This means that your employer must know or have reason to know that you were working overtime. Some employers have in place some policies that prohibit workers from working unauthorized overtime. Your employer may punish you for violating such policies even if the law requires them to pay you overtime. 

Importance of Overtime Laws

Payment of higher wages for work hours that exceed the normal amount of work is essential. The extra pay offers fair compensation to the employees for sacrificing their time and working long hours. The overtime wages also serve an incentive to make employers hire more employees to avoid paying high overtime wages. Therefore, overtime laws help to save employees from exploitation and the burden of excess work. The rules also contribute to high rates of employment as employers realize the need to hire additional employees. 

Often, California laws interpret over-time in favor of employees, as this serves as a form of protection for the employees. Whenever there is an ambiguity regarding overtime law, the courts interpret and resolve the law in favor of employees. 

It is a requirement of both California state and federal law for employers to pay overtime to employees. Two laws mainly control overtime in California; FLSA (The federal Fair Labor Standards Act) and the California Labor Code section 510. Administrative regulations and court cases also come in handy in interpreting the overtime laws.

At times, the California State laws and federal laws may differ. In such an instance, the law that is most favorable to the employee applies. Usually, California overtime laws favor employees than federal laws. Therefore, in most situations, California laws prevail over federal laws. 

Exempt Employees

Exempt referees refer to workers to whom California overtime laws do not apply. These employees do not benefit other wage and hour laws, including laws requiring meal and rest breaks. Many employees are under a white-collar exemption. For overtime rules not to apply, white-collar exempt employees have to meet some requirements.

The employees must be involved in carrying out professional, administrative, or executive tasks. More than 50% of the employees' work time must entail performing such tasks. It is also a requirement for the employee to exercise independent judgment and discretion at work. The employee must be earning a minimum salary of twice the state minimum wage for a full forty-hour week. As of January 2019, this translates to a minimum annual salary of $45,760 per year.  As long as an employee's salary falls below the minimum threshold for white-collar exemption, an employer has to pay overtime for the extra hours an employee works.

Outside salespersons are also exempt from California overtime laws. An employee qualifies as an outside salesperson if they are above 18 years of age. If the employee spends more than 50% of their working time away from their employer's place of business, they are exempt from overtime. An employee who sells items, services, or contracts qualifies as an outside salesperson and is exempt from overtime pay.

If unionized employees come up with an alternative work schedule under a collective bargaining agreement, the schedule may create an exception to the standard overtime rules.  It is common for union employees to gain exemption from California's overtime laws. For exemption, the employees must have in place a collective bargaining agreement. The agreement must provide for the hours of work, wages, and the working conditions of the employee. The employees' collective bargaining agreement must offer premium wage rates for extra hours worked. The agreement must also provide a regular rate of pay per hour for at least thirty percent more than the minimum wage set by the state.  If the collective agreement does not meet the minimum requirement, the employee will still be under the protection of overtime laws. 

Job-specific exceptions to overtime laws also exist. The California Industrial Welfare Commission issued a series of regulations known as wage orders. The wage orders have accepted various exceptions to California overtime laws. The exemptions apply to employees working in specific industries or jobs. Some of the occupations to which the special exceptions apply to include personal attendants, live-in domestic employees, and persons managing homes for the aged. Additionally, counselors at camps, persons who provide 24-hour residential childcare, and ambulance attendants and drivers do not qualify for overtime. The particular exceptions may also apply to agricultural occupations and an employer's parents, children, or spouse. 

Non-residents are entitled to protection under overtime laws, just like the California residents.  The law protects all California employees, even if the employees do not have work privileges and legal residence. However, it is unclear whether the overtime laws apply to persons who briefly worked in California for less than one day. 

Determining Overtime Wages

According to both California State law and federal law, an employee should get overtime pay for working more than forty regular hours in a workweek. However, California law is more generous and offers better terms for employees. The law requires employees to get overtime pay for working more than eight hours a day or more than forty regular hours in a workweek. If an employee works on a seventh consecutive day in a workweek, they qualify for overtime pay. The law requires an employee to get one and a half of their regular pay for overtime hours worked.  Employees get a double wage for any time worked more than 12 hours in a workday. An employee also gets double pay for working more than 8 hours on the seventh consecutive day in a workweek.

For computing overtime owed, a workday refers to a 24-hour period that begins at a specific time on every calendar day. A workweek refers to seven consecutive days of the week that start on a particular calendar day every week.  Employers have the mandate to determine the beginning of the workweek. Employers need to have this mandate as it enables them to calculate the overtime owed to employees. 

The amount of overtime owed to an employee is dependent on the employee's regular rate of pay.  Therefore, the regular wages of an employee is a crucial determinant of the amount of overtime an employee can earn.

It is easy to compute the regular rate of pay for an employee if the employee earns a constant wage per hour and does not receive additional compensation. It is complicated to calculate the regular rate of pay if an employee gets more than one form of compensation. However, the rule is that in computing the regular rate of pay for an employee, you must consider all forms of compensation an employee receives.  It is common for employers to withhold their employees' rates of pay to evade overtime payments. In such a case, a consistent manner, which accurately outlines an employer's pay practices, is adopted in calculating the rate of pay. 

Alternative workweek Schedules

California overtime laws do not apply to workers whose employers have in place an alternative workweek schedule. An alternative workweek schedule refers to an agreement between an employer and its employees. For instance, the parties may agree to work for up to ten hours a day without overtime pay. For an alternative workweek schedule to be acceptable, more than two-thirds of the employees affected by the schedule must approve it by secret ballot. If the employees work for a more extended period than the hours outlined in the alternative workweek schedule, the employer has to pay overtime for the extra hours.

It is common for industries like healthcare to have in place an alternative workweek schedule. A workweek schedule must meet several requirements. An employer must propose in written form seeking the establishment of an alternative workweek schedule. The proposal may include a single workweek schedule and may consist of several workweek schedules. Employees are free to choose a workweek schedule that suits them best if several schedules exist. 

It is also a requirement for the employer to make a written disclosure explaining the terms of the workweek schedule. The disclosure outlines the effects of the workweek schedule on the hours, benefits, and wages of the employees. The disclosure must consist of a meeting held before employees vote in the workweek schedule. Preferably, the meeting should take place 14 days before the employees vote to approve the proposed workweek schedule.  During this meeting, the employer reveals to the employees the effects of the proposed alternative workweek schedule. 

For an alternative workweek scheduled to take effect, employees must vote, and the majority of them (more than two-thirds) have to approve the workweek schedule. The election or voting must take place during regular work hours. The meeting must also take place at the employees' work site. 

Upon the voting and the approval of an alternative workweek schedule, the employer must report the arrangement to the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement. The employer must file the report within 30 days after finalizing the voting. 

During the process of voting and approving an alternative workweek schedule, employees are free to air their views regarding the schedule. The employer cannot punish or retaliate against an employee for commenting or expressing an opinion on the alternative workweek schedule.

It is important to note that even if the alternative workweek schedule takes effect, the employer may still have to pay overtime in some instances. For instance, if employees work for more than 10 hours in a workday or more than 40 hours in a workweek, the employer has to provide overtime pay. The overtime compensation is one and a half times the regular pay of the employee. Double pay applies if the employee works more than 12 hours in a workday. Double pay also applies if an employee more than 8 hours on a day that is outside the scheduled workdays.

Overtime Pyramiding

The law requires that any work in above 8 hours in a workday and 40 hours in a workweek receive overtime payment. In compensating employees for overtime hours, overtime pyramiding may occur. This refers to the double-counting of an employee’s daily and weekly overtime hours. In a case of overtime pyramiding, an employee may receive double compensation. The hours considered for daily overtime compensations may still count for weekly overtime compensation. California law is against overtime pyramiding. 

Employers should not count an employee's daily overtime hours towards their weekly overtime hours. Which is the correct way of determining an employee's overtime hours? An employer should first compile the daily overtime hours that an employee may have accumulated over the week. The employer should contact them less the daily overtime hours from the total hours worked by an employee in a workweek. If the figure that remains is more than 40 hours, the employee receives a weekly overtime compensation for the hours above 40. 

Does Overtime Law Apply For Missed Meals and Rest Breaks?

The California law requires employers to pay employees for all hours worked, including rest breaks and meal times. Therefore, if an employer allows an employee to work through a meal break, they should give the employee overtime compensation.  If an employee works for more than 8 hours in a workday or more than 40 hours in a workweek while counting meal and rest breaks, the employee qualifies for overtime pay.  However, if the employer relieves an employee of his duties during lunch or rest breaks, the break will not count as hours worked. Therefore, the employee will not receive overtime compensation for the lunch breaks or rest hours. 

According to California law, for every four hours an employee works, the employer should give the employee a rest break of around 10 minutes. The rest break qualifies as work hours, and if the employer denies an employee the rest time, they should pay the employee overtime amount. 

Employees should also get overtime pay for hours they spend on the call. An employee is on call if an employer requests the employee to work within a short notice. Whether or not an employer pays overtime to an employee who is on call will depend on the level of control the employer exercises on the employee if the employer gives the employee the freedom to engage in personal activities while on call, the employee is not eligible for overtime pay. For an employee who lacks the freedom to indulge in personal activities while on call, the employer should pay their overtime.

California courts have maintained that on-call hours when the employee is free to engage in personal activities do not count as hours worked. This applies if the employer gives the employee ample time to report to work, which may be as short as twenty or thirty minutes.

Overtime Payment for Job Preparation

Some types of jobs require employees to take some time to prepare before commencing the task. Any task that an employee performs to prepare for work counts as hours worked. This applies if the preparation tasks are a crucial part of the employee's work. For instance, if an employee has to set up machinery before commencing work, the time spent in setting up the machine qualifies as hours worked.

There is a hot debate surrounding job preparation tasks that qualify as hours worked. For instance, does the time an employee spends changing into work gear qualify as hours worked? Seek legal counsel if you are not sure whether your employer owes you overtime pay for the time you spend preparing for a job.

The time an employee spends traveling or commuting to the workplace does not count as hours worked. This applies even if the employee uses a shared travel program offered by their employer if it is compulsory to use transportation provided by the employer while commuting to work, the commuting time qualify for overtime compensation.

The time an employee spends to travel from home to a job site may qualify as hours worked. This is particularly applicable if the job site is far and the employee has to travel to undertake a particular assignment. 

How to Handle Overtime Disputes with an Employer

If your employer is adamant about paying your overtime or if your employer underpays your overtime, you have several options. You may opt to resolve the issue with the employer out of court or informally. If your employer is still adamant, you may consider filing a lawsuit in court. An employee may also bring a claim with a government agency and seek compensation for unpaid wages and penalties. 

Employees have a legal right to file a wage/hour lawsuit against their employer if the employer fails to pay them overtime. If the suit is successful, the employee may recover the total balance of overtime compensation an employer may have withheld from their pay. The court may also require the employer to pay any interest on the overtime amount. The employer may also have to meet reasonable litigation and attorney fees.  It is advisable to work through an attorney instead of attempting to seek compensation on your own. An employee can opt to seek relief from either a California state court or a federal court. Both the state and the federal court will assist the employee in recovering any outstanding overtime pay.

The largest category of claims filed under California's wage and hour laws consist of unpaid overtime claims. California has the highest number of unpaid overtime claims than any other state in the United States. Most unpaid overtime claims result from the failure of employers to understand and act in accordance with California wage and hour laws. In other instances, the unpaid overtime claims are a form of wage theft. Employees have to understand their right to get overtime pay to ensure that they are entitled to the wages they earn.

Many employers deny their workers overtime pay. Therefore, if you are currently at war with your employer for withholding overtime from you, you can join other employees in seeking compensation. You can be part of a class action employment suit where you file a claim as a group. 

Contact a Long Beach Workers Compensation Attorney Near Me

If your employer has denied you the deserved overtime pay, it might be the right time to seek legal counsel. The Workers Compensation Attorney Group (Long Beach) is committed to helping clients get the compensation they deserve. Contact us at 714-716-5933 and speak to one of our attorneys today.