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What are California’s Overtime Rules?

California has a number of very specific overtime laws which are more generous than their federal counterparts. California’s overtime laws differ for some industries or may be subject to a collective bargaining agreement. Below are the general overtime rules that apply to most employees.

Under California’s law, an employer is required to pay one and one-halfthe employee’s regular rate of pay if any of the following apply:

  • the employee works more than eight (8) hours, and up to twelve (12) hours, in a workday;
  • the employee works more than forty (40) hours in a workweek;
  • the first eight (8) hours an employee works for a seventh day of work in any one workweek.

An employer is also required to pay twice the employee’s regular rate of pay if:

  • the employee works more than twelve (12) hours in a workday;
  • the employee works more than eight (8) hours on the seventh day of work in any one workweek.

California does not set a mandatory method for determining when a workday and workweek starts and ends. However, once an employer establishes the start time for a workday and workweek, it should be permanent and may not be changed to evade overtime obligations. Therefore, it is possible to work more than 8 hours or seven consecutive days without receiving overtime, depending on when the workday or workweek starts.

To read more about overtime law, please see Labor Code, Section 500 (click here) and Section 510 (click here).

Important Note: Your employer may have additional overtime compensation rules to which it is bound. For example, some employers offer overtime for hours worked on a holiday. It is important to ask your employer about any overtime compensation offered in addition to the overtime rules set out above.

Important Note: California wage laws only apply to “employees” – not “independent contractors.” However, employers may misclassify employees as independent contractors to avoid complying with California’s wage laws. To learn more about the difference between employees and independent contractors, please click here.

Important Note: Salaried employees may be considered “exempt” employees for the purposes of overtime, but this is not always true. To learn more about the difference between exempt employees and nonexempt employees, please click here.

Important Note: One of the most important factors in determining an hourly employees’ compensation is determining when the employee is “on duty” or actually working for his/her employer. To learn more about hours worked under California law, please click here.

Can I receive Additional Vacation or “Comp Time” instead of Overtime?

In lieu of overtime compensation, California law allows an employee to receive extra time off work for any overtime accrued. This is known as “Comp Time.”

The Comp Time you may receive is equal to the amount of overtime you worked multiplied by the rate of overtime you would have been owed.

Example: If you worked two hours of overtime at time-and-a-half-pay and one hour of overtime two-times-pay in a pay period, you would be entitled to five hours of “Comp Time” (i.e. (2 hours x 1.5) + (1 hour x 2) = 5).

Yet, an employer may not just give you Comp Time in lieu of overtime compensation. Some requirements must be met:

  • the employee and employer must have a written agreement to allow Comp Time before the overtime is accrued (this may be established as part of a collective bargaining agreement);
  • the employee has requested, in writing, compensating time off in lieu of overtime compensation;
  • the employee is regularly scheduled to work no less than forty (40) hours in a workweek; and
  • the employee has not accrued more than 240 hours of compensating time off.

To read more about Comp Time, please see Labor Code, Section 204.3 or click here.

Can I “Makeup Work Time” lost because of a personal obligation without Receiving Overtime?

Often, an employee may miss work because of a personal obligation. California overtime law allows an employer to offer that employee additional time during the workweek to “makeup” that lost time without accruing overtime hours. This exemption to the overtime law has a number of requirements:

  • the employee must submit a written request for “makeup time.”;
  • the “makeup time” must be performed in the same workweek in which the work time was lost;
  • the “makeup time” must not be used if a person has worked more than eleven (11) hours in a workday or forty (40) hours in a workweek.

To read more about “Comp Time” law, please see Labor Code, Section 513 or click here.

What to do if my Employer Does Not Pay My Overtime?

In California, aggrieved employees have two options if their employer refuses to pay their full wages (including overtime pay). They may file an administrative claim with the California Labor Commissioner’s office or they may file a lawsuit.

The California Labor Commissioner has a helpful website detailing how to file a wage claim. However, California’s Private Attorneys General Act or “PAGA” also authorizes aggrieved employees to file lawsuits to recover civil penalties on behalf of themselves, other employees, and the State of California for Labor Code violations. Essentially, PAGA allows employees to step into the shoes of the Labor Commissioner to enforce California’s Labor Code. Those who intend to pursue PAGA cases must follow the requirements specified in the Labor Code.

Whether it is wise to file an administrative claim with the Labor Commissioner or to file your own lawsuit will often depend on the facts of your individual case. Lawsuits are often subject to more complicated and time consuming procedures than filing an administrative claim. Thus, a lawsuit may not make sense in a simple case. A lawsuit, however, may be appropriate for multifaceted claims or cases involving a large number of employees. Given the complex nature of California’s wage law, consulting an experienced attorney is often a good idea before asserting any legal claim. Many attorneys will offer free initial consultations and will take a case on a contingency basis, meaning you may not have to pay any attorneys’ fees and costs unless the case is successful.

Important Note: Wage claims may be subject to a number of “statutes of limitation” or time periods in which an employee must bring their claims. Thus, it is important to act immediately when you discover any wage law violations.

Important Note: An employer may violate federal labor laws (including the Fair Labor Standards Act), in addition to violating California’s Labor Code. The federal laws may also allow you to file an administrative claim or file a lawsuit. Again, because there are number of laws that may be applicable to your claim, your best option may be to consult with an attorney.

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