While many businesses treat their employees fairly, unfortunately this is not always the case.

Employers sometimes attempt to exploit their employees, often by paying them less than what they are owed.

Particularly if you work long hours, understanding California overtime laws is an important part of knowing your rights as an employee.

Workplace Rights Law Group represents employees in California. When employers withhold overtime pay, California employees can come to us for help.

Contact us today if you believe your employer violated your workplace rights.

What Is California “Overtime”?

Generally speaking, “overtime” under California labor law includes any work you complete

  • Over 40 hours during a workweek,
  • Over eight hours during a workday, or
  • On the last day of a seven-day workweek.

Depending on when the overtime occurs, employers are on the hook for giving employees increased wages for their overtime work.

In most cases, the overtime laws California has entitle employees to overtime pay equal to 1.5 times their regular rate of pay, frequently called “time and a half.”

Additionally, employers may owe up to two times the employee’s regular pay, known as “double time” in California. Employees earn double time for

  • Any time beyond eight hours worked on the seventh consecutive day of work in a workweek; and
  • Any time beyond 12 hours worked during a single workday.

The overtime laws California has adopted are very similar to those in the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).

In fact, the biggest difference is that California provides more protections by including workday overtime (anything beyond eight hours) in addition to workweek overtime.

Understanding Workdays and Workweeks

Legally speaking, “workday” and “workweek” have specific meanings when it comes to California state law on overtime.

The California Labor Code defines a workday as any consecutive 24-hour period established by the employer that starts at the same time each day.

Keep in mind that the beginning of an employee’s shift is not necessarily the beginning of an employee’s workday.

Similarly, a workweek is any consecutive seven-day period starting on the same calendar day; workweeks break down into seven 24-hour periods, or a regularly recurring period of a total of 168 hours.

Employees Eligible for Overtime

In California, all employees are eligible for overtime pay unless they fall within an exemption. Accordingly, this means that California’s overtime laws protect all employees except:

  • Independent contractors,
  • Exempt employees, and
  • Employees who agree to an “alternative workweek schedule.”

Alternative workweek schedules are treated a very specific way under California’s labor laws.

If you’re unsure whether you’re subject to such a schedule, you should contact a California wage and hour attorney.

What Are Exempt vs. Non-Exempt Employees?

In the United States and California, there are two main categories of employee: exempt and non-exempt. These terms refer to an employee’s status under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act and whether that federal law applies to them.

If the law does apply, the employee is “non-exempt”; if the law does not apply, the employee is “exempt.”

California Overtime Exemptions

There are several important exemptions to CA labor law overtime. Whether you are exempt or non-exempt depends explicitly on the definitions found in the California Labor Code. Your employer cannot make you sign an agreement to be an exempt employee.

Employees who fall within any of the following categories are exempt from California’s overtime laws:

  • Executives, administrators, and professionals as those titles are defined by California law;
  • Computer software employees;
  • State and local government employees;
  • Traveling salesmen;
  • Employees who are the parent, spouse, child, or adopted child of the employer;
  • Employees participating in a national service program;
  • Taxi drivers and other drivers regulated by the U.S. Department of Transportation or the California Code of Regulations;
  • Employees covered by a valid collective bargaining agreement;
  • Commissioned employees earning 1.5 times minimum wage;
  • Student nurses attending an accredited school;
  • Certain airline employees;
  • Fishing boat crew members;
  • Professional actors;
  • Motion picture projectionists;
  • Certain radio and television studio employees;
  • Employees engaged in primarily “intellectual, managerial, or creative work”; and
  • Babysitters.

Keep in mind that each of these categories has specific criteria the employee must meet before California overtime exemptions include them.

How Can a California Employment Lawyer Help?

An employer’s neglect or refusal to pay an employee their earned wages often places the employee in an extremely difficult position.

In addition to the financial struggle that may occur, the employee must also risk retaliation or discrimination for speaking up about the unfair practices.

An attorney can help reduce some of this burden by guiding you through the process and making sure you fully understand your rights as an employee.

Workplace Rights Law Group can help you collect evidence to build your case and advise you of your options moving forward.

If a lawsuit is necessary—either to recover your lost wages or to fight back against discrimination—we can help with that too.

Frequently Asked Questions About California Overtime

Does an Employer Have to Pay for Unauthorized Overtime Work?

Yes. Employers must pay their employees for all overtime worked, even if that overtime was unauthorized. This applies only when the employer “knew or should have known” that the employee would be working.

In this situation, keep in mind that the employer may still discipline the employee for violating applicable company policies relating to overtime.

Are Salaried Employees Exempt from OT Rules in California?

Not necessarily. Despite a common misconception, receiving a salary does not automatically exempt you from overtime pay. As explained above, you are exempt from California overtime only if you fall within one of the specific exemptions to California’s labor code.

Can My Employer Require Me to Work Overtime?

Yes. Employers are responsible for setting their employees’ schedules, including overtime. As long as they pay the appropriate overtime wages, employers can require their employees to work overtime.

Can I Get Fired If I Refuse to Work Overtime Hours?

Yes. In most cases, employers may schedule overtime as long as they pay the proper wages, and an employee who refuses to work that scheduled time may face discipline or termination.

However, there is one exception: employers may not require their employees to forego a day of rest (although employees may make that decision themselves).

How Many Hours Is “Full-Time” Employment? “Part-Time” Employment?

Typically, you are employed full time if you work between 30 and 40 hours a week. By contrast, part-time employees are those scheduled to work less than 30 hours per week.

My Employer Has Not Paid Me My Overtime Wages; What Should I Do?

Failure to pay owed overtime wages is a form of wage theft. If your employer is not paying you overtime wages you’ve earned, you will have to file a claim with the Division of Labor Standard Enforcement.

For violations of California overtime laws, you have three years to file your claim. Depending on the circumstances, you may also be able to file a civil lawsuit to recover your lost wages. In either case, you should speak with an attorney.

What Can I Do If My Employer Retaliates Against Me for Filing a Wage Claim?

Retaliation in response to wage claims is an actionable form of discrimination. Our workplace discrimination lawyers can help you file a complaint or lawsuit and recover compensation.

Contact Our Wage and Hour Attorneys Today

At the Workplace Rights Law Group, our attorneys have nearly 75 years combined experience representing clients in employment law cases.

If you’ve experienced wage theft, contact us today online or by phone at (818) 844-5200 for a free case review and consultation.


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