California OT Laws

What is the overtime law in California?

California overtime law requires employers to pay eligible employees twice their rate of pay when those employees have worked more than 12 hours in a workday or more than eight hours on their seventh consecutive day of work. Eligible employees must be over 18 years old, though exemptions apply.

Employees who qualify for California overtime are paid at 1.5 times their standard rate when they work more than eight hours in a workday and more than 40 hours in a workweek. Employees also earn 1.5 times their standard rate for the first eight hours of their seventh consecutive day of work.

Unlike the federal overtime law, qualified employees are paid twice their standard rate when they work more than 12 hours in a workday or more than eight hours on their seventh consecutive day of work.

To be eligible to receive overtime payments, the employee must be over the age of 18 and employed in a non-executive, non-administrative, non-professional job. Employees over the age of 16 may also be eligible if they are legally allowed to leave school to start work. Employees on hourly rates, day rates, or an annual salary can still qualify for California overtime if they are not exempt (more on this below).

California overtime has many exemptions. For example, the employee is in a production role, so their pay can be quantified by the number of units the company produces. Also, exempt employees don’t have the freedom to choose how and when they do their job.

To be clear about who overtime laws apply to, check the exemptions on the State of California’s Department of Industrial Relations website and get professional advice if you have any doubts.

What are the California overtime requirements?

  • An employee must be over the age of 18.

  • An employee must be over the age of 16 and legally allowed to leave school to work.

  • An employee must be in a non-executive, non-administrative, non-professional job. But this list is not exhaustive.

How does California overtime work?

  • 1.5x hourly rate for work over 8 hours in a workday and 40 hours in a workweek

  • 1.5x hourly rate for the first 8 hours on the seventh consecutive day of work

  • 2x hourly rate for work over 12 hours in a workday

  • 2x hourly rate for work over 8 hours on the seventh consecutive day of work

What is a workday?

A workday is 24 hours long. It can start at any point in the day, but subsequent workdays should begin at the same time. Workdays do not need to coincide with the start of an employee’s shift, and an employer can set different workdays for different shifts. Once workdays are established, they can only be modified if the change is permanent and not made to avoid overtime payments.

What is a workweek?

A workweek in California is seven consecutive 24-hour periods, comprising 168 hours in total, that start on the same day and at the same time each week. A workweek can begin at any time of any day, as long as the time and day are fixed and recurring. Once established, the starting point of a workweek can only be changed if the change is permanent and not brought in to avoid overtime payments.

What is the California law after 8 hours?

Unlike other states where the provision for overtime starts after 40 hours of work in the workweek, California overtime starts after eight hours worked in a day. It applies to all nonexempt employees. California law presumes all employees are nonexempt. The burden lies with the employer to prove this otherwise.

What is not covered by California overtime?

Executives: This is anyone who earns more than twice the minimum wage (currently equivalent to more than $720 a week). They also run a company or one of its departments and manage more than two employees with the power to hire them, review their work, and fire them.

Administrative employees: This is anyone who earns more than twice the minimum wage (currently equivalent to more than $720 a week). This is someone whose job does not involve manual labor but requires specialized training and allows them to decide how and when work is performed with minimal supervision.

Professional employees: This is anyone who earns more than twice the minimum wage (currently equivalent to more than $720 a week). This is someone whose job is in law, medicine, dentistry, optometry, architecture, engineering, teaching, accounting, sciences (if it does not involve manual labor), and the arts (if their work cannot be measured by a unit of production) and allows them to decide how and when work is performed with minimal supervision.

Some employees who may otherwise be eligible for California overtime will not receive it because they work a shift pattern different from the standard five, eight-hour days in a workweek—like four 10-hour days or three 12-hour days. Even though these shifts are over eight hours in length, employees only receive overtime once they work over 40 hours in any workweek.

Other professionals, like drivers, actors, student nurses, and some journalists, are also exempt from some or all aspects of California overtime law.

For more information on overtime exemptions, please see the State of California’s Department of Industrial Relations and always seek professional advice before deciding on who may or may not be exempt.

Can I sue my employer for not following California salary laws?

California employees may file a lawsuit against employers for violating California labor laws. Successful wage and hour class action lawsuits often involve equal pay violations, failure to properly classify employees, or failure to pay overtime.

When an employee is improperly classified as “exempt,” the employer may owe the employee damages for unpaid overtime. The employer may also owe the employee one hour's pay for each meal break the employee was denied.30

If an employer violates the California Equal Pay Act, the employer may be liable to the employee for the deprived wages, including interest, reasonable attorney's fees, and an additional equal amount as liquidated damages.31

If an employer retaliates against an employee in violation of the California Equal Pay Act, through a reduction in salary, reduced hours, or termination, the employee may be able to recover damages. An employee may recover reinstatement and reimbursement for lost wages and work caused by the acts of the employer, including interest and appropriate equitable relief.

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