The federal government as well as California law limit the number of hours you can work before you are owed overtime pay. For example, in California, if you work more than eight hours in a workday or more than forty hours in a workweek, you are entitled to overtime compensation.
Some of the most common ways an employer may have taken advantage of you (and thus violating federal and California state laws) include:
- Requiring you to “waive” your right to overtime pay or to be paid less than the statutory rate;
- Paying you “under the table” in cash;
- Having you work “off the clock” before and/or after your shift or during your lunch break;
- Requiring you to arrive early for your shift;
- Not compensating you for travel time during work or otherwise at the employer’s direction;
- Not compensating you for being “on-call” (this includes requiring you to respond to texts or emails while off duty);
- Not compensating you for time spent donning and doffing uniforms, safety gear or other equipment required for the job;
- Misclassifying you as “exempt” from overtime and/or designating you as a salaried employee when you should be classified as “non-exempt” or hourly (e.g., paying you as a salaried “manager” or “supervisor” when your job does not entail any management or decision-making duties).
If you suspect that your employer has done any of these things, you should contact us to determine whether you are owed overtime compensation.
SOME FAQ REGARDING OVERTIME
1. What is “overtime” under California law?
In California, the general overtime provisions are that a nonexempt employee 18 years of age or older, or any minor employee 16 or 17 years of age who is not required by law to attend school and is not otherwise prohibited by law from engaging in the subject work, shall not be employed more than eight hours in any workday or more than 40 hours in any workweek unless he or she receives one and one-half times his or her regular rate of pay for all hours worked over eight hours in any workday and over 40 hours in the workweek (or double time as specified below). Eight hours of labor constitutes a day’s work, and employment beyond eight hours in any workday or more than six days in any workweek requires the employee to be compensated for the overtime at not less than:
- One and one-half times the employee’s regular rate of pay for all hours worked in excess of eight hours up to and including 12 hours in any workday, and for the first eight hours worked on the seventh consecutive day of work in a workweek; and
- Double the employee’s regular rate of pay for all hours worked in excess of 12 hours in any workday and for all hours worked in excess of eight on the seventh consecutive day of work in a workweek.
There are, however, a number of exemptions from the overtime law. An “exemption” means that the overtime law does not apply to a particular classification of employees. There are also a number of exceptions to the general overtime law stated above. An “exception” means that overtime is paid to a certain classification of employees on a basis that differs from that stated above. In other words, an exception is a special rule.
2. What is the “regular rate of pay” and how is it determined?
Overtime is based on the regular rate of pay, which is the compensation you normally earn for the work you perform. The regular rate of pay includes a number of different kinds of remuneration, such as hourly earnings, salary, piecework earnings, and commissions. In no case may the regular rate of pay be less than the applicable minimum wage.
3. If an employee works unauthorized overtime is the employer obligated to pay for it?
Yes, California law requires that employers pay overtime, whether authorized or not, at the rate of one and one-half times the employee’s regular rate of pay for all hours worked in excess of eight up to and including 12 hours in any workday, and for the first eight hours of work on the seventh consecutive day of work in a workweek, and double the employee’s regular rate of pay for all hours worked in excess of 12 in any workday and for all hours worked in excess of eight on the seventh consecutive day of work in a workweek.
An employer can discipline an employee if he or she violates the employer’s policy of working overtime without the required authorization. However, California’s wage and hour laws require that the employee be compensated for any hours he or she is “suffered or permitted to work, whether or not required to do so.” California case law holds that “suffer or permit” means work the employer knew or should have known about. Thus, an employee cannot deliberately prevent the employer from obtaining knowledge of the unauthorized overtime worked, and come back later to claim recovery but at the same time, an employer has the duty to keep accurate time records and must pay for work that the employer allows to be performed and to which the employer benefits.
4. Is a bonus included in the regular rate of pay for purposes of calculating overtime?
Yes, if it is a nondiscretionary bonus. A nondiscretionary bonus is included in determining the regular rate of pay for computing overtime when the bonus is compensation for hours worked, production or proficiency, or as an incentive to remain employed by the same employer. Incentive bonuses include flat sum bonuses. To properly compute overtime on a flat sum bonus, the bonus must be divided by the maximum legal regular hours worked in the bonus-earning period, not by the total hours worked in the bonus-earning period. This calculation will produce the regular rate of pay on the flat sum bonus earnings. Overtime on a flat sum bonus must then be paid at 1.5 times or 2 times this regular rate calculation for any overtime hour worked in the bonus-earning period. Overtime on production bonuses, bonuses designed as an incentive for increased production for each hour worked are computed differently from flat sum bonuses. To compute overtime on a production bonus, the production bonus is divided by the total hours worked in the bonus earning period. This calculation will produce the regular rate of pay on the production bonus. Overtime on the production bonus is then paid at .5 times or 1 times the regular rate for all overtime hours worked in the bonus-earning period. Overtime on either type of bonus may be due on either a daily or weekly basis and must be paid in the pay period following the end of the bonus-earning period.
Discretionary bonuses or sums paid as gifts at a holiday or other special occasion, such as a reward for good service, which are not measured by or dependent upon hours worked, production or efficiency, are not subject to be paid at overtime rates and thus are not included for purposes of determining the regular rate of pay.
5. Are salaried employees entitled to overtime?
It depends. A salaried employee must be paid overtime unless they meet the test for exempt status as defined by federal and state laws, or unless they are specifically exempted from overtime by the provisions of the California Labor Code or one of the Industrial Welfare Commission Wage Orders regulating wages, hours and working conditions.
6. Can an employer require an employee to work overtime?
Yes, in general an employer may dictate the employee’s work schedule and hours. Additionally, under most circumstances the employer may discipline an employee, up to and including termination, if the employee refuses to work scheduled overtime. However, an employer cannot discipline an employee for refusing to work on the 7th day in a workweek and is subject to a penalty for causing or inducing an employee to forego a day of rest. An employee who is fully apprised of the entitlement to rest may independently chooses not to take a day of rest.
7. When must I be paid for the overtime hours I work?
Overtime wages must be paid no later than the payday for the next regular payroll period after which the overtime wages were earned. (Labor Code Section 204.) Only the payment of overtime wages may be delayed to the payday of the next following payroll period as the straight time wages must still be paid within the time set forth in the applicable Labor Code section in the pay period in which they were earned; or, in the case of employees who are paid on a weekly, biweekly, or semimonthly basis, not more than seven calendar days following the close of the payroll period.
8. Can an employee waive his or her right to overtime compensation?
No, California law requires that an employee be paid all overtime compensation notwithstanding any agreement to work for a lesser wage. Consequently, such an agreement or “waiver” will not prevent an employee from recovering the difference between the wages paid the employee and the overtime compensation he or she is entitled to receive. (Labor Code Section 1194.)
9. What can I do if my employer doesn’t pay me my overtime wages?
You can either file a wage claim with the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement (the Labor Commissioner’s Office), or you can file a lawsuit in court against your employer to recover the lost wages. Additionally, if you no longer work for this employer, you can make a claim for the waiting time penalty pursuant to Labor Code Section 203.
10. What can I do if my employer retaliates against me because I told him/her I was going to file a wage claim for unpaid overtime?
If your employer discriminates or retaliates against you in any manner whatsoever, for example, he discharges you because you file a wage claim or threaten to file a wage claim with the Labor Commissioner, you can file a discrimination/retaliation complaint with the Labor Commissioner’s Office. In the alternative, you can file a lawsuit in court against your employer.
For a free consultation and to learn more, contact us to speak to a lawyer.