California Overtime Laws

California Labor Laws prevent employers from depriving employees of fair wages for hours worked. The state’s overtime laws define situations where employers must pay time and a half and double time. If you’re working overtime hours in California, you should receive proper and adequate compensation for all additional time worked.

Workers can protect their earnings by understanding the different overtime scenarios defined by California’s Labor Code. These laws hold businesses accountable, stopping unethical employers from taking advantage of employees. Review how your earnings are protected to determine if your employer is paying overtime amounts as required by law.

If you feel like you’re not being paid the correct overtime wages our experienced California employment law attorneys can help. 

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    Requirements for Overtime in California

    The Federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and the California Labor Code govern the overtime laws in California, clearly distinguishing between regular hours and overtime. These laws define the time parameters of a day’s work and identify when to increase hourly pay. Employers must provide the proper type of payment based on these standards.

    California Labor Code 510 specifies:

    • Any work in excess of eight hours in one workday must be paid at time and a half.
    • Any work in excess of 40 hours in one workweek must be paid at time and a half.
    • The first 8 hours worked on the seventh day of work in any one workweek must be paid at time and a half.

    The law also states that:

    • Any work in excess of 12 hours in one day must be paid at double pay.
    • Any work in excess of eight hours on the seventh day of a workweek must also be paid at double pay.

    If you’re a nonexempt employee, California law requires your employer to pay these overtime wages. Employers must increase your pay any time you exceed the above hourly thresholds, whether in a single workday or a full workweek.

    Defining Work Hours for California Overtime Wages

    Any overtime worked in California generally includes both the hours spent actively working in addition to the following:

    • Meal breaks: If your employer asks you to work during your meal break, that time counts toward overtime wages.
    • Rest breaks: Any rest breaks you take while working count toward overtime wages.
    • On-call time: You can calculate the time you spend on call toward overtime hours in certain circumstances.
    • Job preparation time: If there’s a certain amount of time your employer expects you to spend preparing items, equipment, or your workspace for your primary job tasks or assignments, this preparation time counts toward overtime hours.
    • Commuting: In certain circumstances, commuting time, even if that commute is from your home to your workplace or a worksite, counts towards overtime hours. This rule applies only to specific situations, such as if an employer asks their employee to commute to meet a special work request or perform work for their benefit. Commuting time as overtime doesn’t apply explicitly or entirely to all commutes.

    Who's covered by California overtime laws?

    Most employees in California are nonexempt, meaning the overtime standards would apply to their employers directly. California overtime laws cover most employees who work in the state. To understand how coverage extends to different types of employees, you must know the distinction between exempt and nonexempt workers.

    Nonexempt Employees: These employees are eligible for overtime and must receive payment for all hours worked over 40 hours weekly according to the standards specified in the California Labor Code. They typically receive hourly wages or a salary below a minimum amount per the Department of Labor. 

    Exempt Employees: These employees are not eligible for overtime, and employers do not have to pay them for overtime hours worked. In exchange, exempt employees are typically paid a salary above a certain level or receive benefits packages to offset extra hours worked. 

    According to the California Labor Commissioner’s Office, any nonexempt employee age 18 or over and any minor employee 16 or 17 years of age without a requirement by law to attend school must receive payment of one and a half times their usual pay for any overtime hours worked and double time in specific situations involving a workday of 12 hours or greater or extended workweeks.

    Workers Who Are Exempt from Overtime Pay in California

    Certain types of workers are exempt from and not eligible to receive overtime pay according to section 515 of the California Labor Code. This exempt group often includes administrative, professional, and executive employees or individuals receiving a salary above a certain level or other benefits. 

    Exempt positions typically include:

    • Outside Salespersons: These individuals spend more than half of their working hours away from their primary place of business, with job duties involving obtaining orders or selling items.
    • Unionized Employees Under a Collective Bargaining Agreement: Employees under a CBA with a union are not eligible for overtime compensation due to the union negotiating their wages, hours of work, and any premium paid for overtime hours.
    • Occupations Having Their Own Overtime Rules: If a particular occupation has its own overtime rules or regulations, these rules override any other requirements set by law for that specific occupation.
    • Independent Contractors: Since independent contractors are not on a business’s payroll, they do not receive payment for overtime hours. Instead, they receive payment for work in accordance with their contract.
    • Employees with an “Alternative Workweek Schedule”: If an employer requires workers to work greater than eight hours in a single 24-hour time block, this is considered an alternative workweek schedule, and the workers will not receive payment for overtime hours. These employees often receive a salary.

    How much is overtime pay in California?

    To calculate the amount of overtime pay an employee should receive, begin with the “regular rate of pay” for that employee. Next, calculate any additions due to overtime hours. An employee’s regular pay rate is the normal compensation received for work performed.

    For hourly employees, the regular rate of pay is the sum of the hourly rate and any shift differentials or non-hourly compensation the employee receives. For salaried employees, you can calculate the regular rate of pay by dividing the annual salary by 52 (the number of weeks in a year) to obtain a weekly rate and then dividing the weekly rate by 40 (the number of full-time hours worked in a week) to get an hourly rate. Note that an employee’s regular pay rate cannot be less than minimum wage.


    An Hourly Employee:

    • An employee earns $14.00 per hour in Sacramento and works 42 hours in one week, requiring their employer to pay overtime. For one week, this employee earns $14.00 x 40 (for base hours worked), equating to $560.00. In addition, the employee would receive a 1.5x overtime premium applied to $14.00, or $21.00 ($14 plus $7 or half of $14) x 2 (for the remaining two overtime hours), equating to $42. In total, the employee would receive $560.00 + $42.00 = $602.00 for a 42-hour workweek. 

    A Salaried Employee:

    • A salaried employee earns $70,000 per year in Oakland. To obtain their regular rate of pay, you would divide $70,000 by 52 (weeks in a year) and again by 40 (normal weekly working hours) to obtain an hourly rate of approximately $34.00. When applying a 1.5x premium ($34 plus $17 or half of $34), their overtime rate would be $51.00 for every overtime hour worked.

    Is my employer required to pay for unauthorized overtime hours?

    Yes, your employer is required to pay for any unauthorized overtime hours if you’re a nonexempt employee. California Code of Regulations states at title 8, section 11040 (2), that “hours worked” include the time an employee is subject to the control of an employer and all time the employee works even if that time isn’t explicitly “authorized.”

    Even though the employer must pay the nonexempt employee per California Labor Laws, the employer may still discipline the employee for failing to comply with the intended work hours.

    Sacramento California employee working on a laptop closeup

    What are my options if my employer refuses to pay overtime wages in California?

    Overtime wage complaints are common in California, and you have options to remedy the situation if your employer refuses to pay you all worked hours. As an employee, you can take action by:

    Cutter Law P.C. assists employees with filing wage claims and overtime wage lawsuits. If your employer retaliates against you due to your actions, Cutter Law can also file a retaliation complaint on your behalf.

    Contact Cutter Law P.C. to Obtain Earned Overtime Wages in California

    Cutter Law has extensive experience helping workers in California assert their rights to receive earned overtime wages. Our attorneys can hold your employer accountable for the rightful payment of overtime wages owed.

    Contact Cutter Law today for a free case evaluation and learn more about how we may help you pursue a California overtime wage claim so you can get paid what you rightfully earned for your hard work.


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