Know Your Rights: A California Employee’s Guide to Overtime Laws

Do you have questions about overtime pay in California? Are you wondering if your employer has paid you overtime correctly? Overtime violations are some of the most common issues we see from employees coming to our firm for help with their employment and wage and hour issues. Here’s a guide to overtime laws in California so that you can better determine if you are owed overtime.

Overview of Overtime Laws

Generally, if you are an employee in California, you should not be required to work more than eight hours in any one workday, more than 40 hours in one work week, or more than 7 consecutive days without additional compensation. The additional payments to the employee for longer work hours can be either one and one-half times their usual salary or up to double their salary. This monetary increase is determined by how much additional time the employee is working. There are many specific laws regarding overtime pay, and therefore it is important to contact an attorney to review your specific case if you believe your employer is not paying overtime correctly.

Do California Overtime Laws Apply to Me?

A number of exceptions exist for those who are eligible for compensation under overtime law. Those who cannot receive overtime compensation include some executive and administrative professionals under what is known as the “White Collar Exemption.” Generally, this exemption applies to employees who make at least twice the minimum wage and are primarily engaged in managerial and executive tasks at least 50% of the time and have the authority to make independent decisions.

While there are very specific rules for each group of exempt employees, in general, other exemptions include registered nurses, doctors, workers classified as outside salespeople, certain employees in the computer software field, professional actors, certain drivers, certain private school teachers, employees on commission who earn at least 1.5 times the minimum wage and receive more than half of their pay in commissions, airline employees and certain in-home nannies, among other professions. 

Let us take, for example, a large group of exempt employees — those who are in unions. Any employees who are part of a collective bargaining unit are not eligible to receive compensation under the California Overtime Law if certain conditions under that contract are met. Specifically, if your collective bargaining agreement provides for the wages, hours of work, and working conditions, then you might be an exempt worker. However, the agreement must specifically include wage rates for all overtime hours worked at a rate of not less than 30% more than the state minimum wage.

It is important to review all of your employment contracts and pay schedules with an attorney to determine if you have been paid appropriately for your overtime work. 

Common Overtime Violations

California employers often violate overtime laws by claiming their employees are exempt. One common overtime law myth is that independent contractors are not entitled to overtime. How your employer classifies you has no bearing on whether or not you are entitled to overtime. In fact, many employers misclassify their employees as independent contractors and intentionally fail to pay overtime. 

Another common overtime violation is not paying overtime to salaried employees or employees who don’t clock in and out. It is the employer’s responsibility to keep track of employees’ hours and regardless of how they are paid, salaried employees are covered under California overtime laws. Employers must still pay employees on salary overtime and cannot claim that just because the employees don’t use time cards, that the employer isn’t responsible for tracking their hours.

Additionally, another common misconception regards overtime pay and the “executive exemption.” Some employers claim that their managers and supervisors who supervise two or more employees meet the executive exemption and therefore are not eligible for overtime pay. This is false. The executive exemption test is one of the hardest ones to meet under California law. The job titles of California employees have nothing to do with overtime laws; what matters are the job duties the employee performs, regardless of their title. Generally, if the manager or supervisor performs 50% or more of the same duties as those under their supervision, they are not exempt from receiving overtime pay.

Another common overtime violation California employers continually make is regarding their failure to pay employees for work-related travel and travel time. Labor Code 2802 provides that employers must compensate employees for travel time to and from their destination if it’s for work (not counting their regular commute). This could include travel time to different store locations, travel time to different construction sites, travel time to doctor’s offices, etc. This also includes traveling to offsite meetings, travel outside of work hours and on weekends. Whether the employee was taking their own personal vehicle, a train, plane, or other form of transportation, the employer must compensate employee for all travel time (and other expenses including mileage). Employers must use travel time in their calculations of how much overtime an employee works and is required to compensate an employee for all travel time, plus overtime pay.

How Do I Calculate How Much Overtime I Am Owed?

Overtime is based on your regular rate of pay or the wages you earn for the work you regularly perform including hourly earnings, salary, or commissions, the total of which is more than the required minimum wage established by the state. 

To calculate overtime hours, first, figure out if you have worked more or less than 12 hours. If you worked more than eight hours but less than 12 hours, then your compensation should be one and one-half times more than your regular rate of pay. Also, if you worked on your 7th consecutive day, you would also be entitled to time and a half.

For example, on a Monday you were asked to work for an additional two hours, meaning that you worked a 10-hour day. Now, let us say that you are paid $15.00 an hour, that is your regular rate of pay. For your regular eight-hour day, you would receive a total of $120. For the additional two hours you worked, you would be paid $22.50 per hour, totaling $45.00 for the extra two hours of work. On this very long Monday, your daily salary would equal $165.

Continuing on, if you instead work a double shift, meaning that you worked for a total of 16 hours, you could receive overtime payments double that of your regular rate of pay. Anytime your additional working hours exceed a total of 12 hours in one day, compensation is double, so if your regular hourly wage is $15.00, and you work more than 12 hours in a day, for every hour after the eighth hour, you will be paid $30.00 totaling $360.00 for your double shift. If you worked more than 8 hours on your 7th consecutive day of work, you would also be entitled to double time pay.

What Do I Do If I Believe My Employer Is Not Paying Me Overtime Correctly?

If you believe that your employer is not paying the correct overtime wage for your extra hours of work, it is vital to speak with an attorney who is an expert in wage and hour disputes. 

More often than not, employers violating California’s law pertaining to wage and hour violations are also in violation of other California laws, such as California’s wrongful termination laws, rest and meal break laws, personal cell phone/computer/travel reimbursement laws and laws prohibiting retaliation. If you have any questions about California’s employment laws or if you believe your employer may be violating these laws, contact us today at (949) 936-4001 or fill out our online case evaluation/contact form.

SW Employment Law is a premier firm with a wealth of legal talent dedicated to labor and employment law. We have settled and tried cases winning millions of dollars in awards for clients whose employers have violated California labor laws.  Many of these types of situations are ideal for class action treatment. We take most of our cases on a contingency basis, which means we don’t get paid unless we win the case for you.

Contact SW Employment Law today at 888-492-0633 . Consultations are free and confidential.


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