California Overtime Laws
Explained by California Wage and Hour Attorneys

Under California employment law, non-exempt employees are entitled to overtime pay if they work

  • more than eight (8) hours in a single workday, 
  • more than forty (40) hours in a single workweek, or
  • more than six (6) days in a single workweek.1

California overtime law requires employers to pay time and a half for hours in excess of those listed above.

In addition, double time overtime is required for hours worked in excess of twelve (12) hours in a single workday, or in excess of eight (8) hours on the seventh day of a workweek.2

Employers owe employees overtime pay for unauthorized overtime that the employer did not request or require--as long as the employer permitted the employee to perform the extra work.3

Clock-and-dollar-sign-representing-overtime
Overtime pay is required for all California employees who are not exempt employees.

Every California employee--but not independent contractors--is entitled to overtime pay unless:

Below, our California employment attorneys answer the following frequently asked questions about California overtime law:

If you have further questions after reading this article, we invite you to contact us at Shouse Law Group.

1. Does California overtime law apply to me?

California overtime rules apply to all California employees unless they are

  • an independent contractor rather than an employee,
  • an exempt employee under California wage and hour law, or
  • subject to an alternative workweek schedule.

Independent contractor

Independent contractors do not enjoy the same protections under California labor law as employees, and this includes the right to overtime pay.

Time-sheet
Independent contractors are not entitled to overtime in California.

The legal definition of an independent contractor is someone who

  • performs a service under an agreement that says s/he will produce a specified result for specified pay, and
  • maintains control over the means by which the result is accomplished.6

Exempt employees

Exempt employees are those to whom California overtime laws--as well as other wage/hour laws such as laws requiring meal and rest breaks--do not apply. The largest class of exempt employees in California is those to whom the "white-collar exemption" applies.

White-collar exempt employees must meet all of the following requirements in order for overtime rules not to apply to them:

  1. Be primarily engaged in executive, administrative or professional duties (this generally means that 50% or more of his/her work time must be devoted to such tasks);
  2. Regularly and customarily exercise discretion and independent judgment at work; and
  3. Earn a salary equivalent to at least twice the state minimum wage for full-time (40 hours/week) work (as of June 2017 this is $41,600 per year).7

Example: Maria is the manager of a bookstore. She has the authority to hire and fire employees and to make purchasing decisions, and she spends all of her time on management and administration. 

Maria is paid an annual salary of $39,000. Because this amount falls below the minimum threshold for the white-collar overtime exemption, the bookstore's owners owe her overtime every time she works more than 8 hours a day or 40 hours in a week.

Alternative workweek schedule

Finally, the normal California overtime laws do not apply to workers whose employer has instituted an "alternative workweek schedule." 

Worker-receiving-paycheck
Employees who work under alternative workweek schedules are not subject to standard overtime rules.

An alternative workweek schedule is basically an agreement between a group of employees and their employer that the employees may work up to ten (10) hours a day without overtime pay.8

In order to be a valid exception California overtime rules, an alternative workweek schedule must be approved by at least two-thirds of affected employees in a work unit, by secret ballot. Employees are still owed overtime if they work more than the number of hours authorized by the alternative workweek schedule, or if they work more than forty (40) hours in a single workweek.9

Alternative workweek schedules for unionized employees established under a collective bargaining agreement can also create an exception to the standard overtime rules.10

2. How many hours do I have to work for my employer to owe me overtime?

Under California overtime law, employees who are not exempt and are not part of an alternative workweek schedule earn overtime if they work more than 

  • eight (8) hours in a single workday,
  • forty (40) hours in a single workweek, or
  • six (6) days in a single workweek.11

Overtime pay generally consists of time and a half--that is, one and a half the worker's regularly hourly rate of pay.

Man-sleeping-at-desk
Double time overtime is required in California for work over twelve hours in a single day.

However, double time overtime--pay at twice the employee's regularly hourly pay rate--is required for

  • any work in excess of twelve (12) hours in a single workday, and
  • any work in excess of eight (8) hours on the seventh day of a workweek.12

Example: Alexa is a paralegal at a law firm. She is paid a salary equivalent to an hourly rate of $25 and is not exempt from California overtime law.

Alexa helps the lawyers at her firm with a large civil case that goes to trial. The trial lasts for a full week. During that time, Alexa works 14-hour days every day from the Saturday before the trial to Friday (so a 7-day workweek, 98 hours total). 

In addition to her regular salary, Alexa is entitled to time and a half overtime pay of $37.50 per hour for 24 hours (the ninth through twelfth hours that she worked for the first six days of the workweek).

Alexa is also entitled to double time overtime pay of $50 per hour for 26 hours (the thirteenth and fourteenth hours that she worked on each of the first six days of the workweek, plus all 14 hours that she worked on the seventh day of the workweek).

3. Does California law require overtime pay if I work unauthorized overtime?

California courts have stated that unauthorized overtime is still overtime under California wage and hour law. That is, even if your employer does not specifically request that you work overtime or give you advance approval to work overtime, s/he still owes you overtime pay.13

However, you are only entitled to overtime pay for unauthorized overtime if your employer "suffers or permits" you to work overtime. This generally means that the employer must know or have reason to know that you were working overtime hours or working off the clock.14

Employee-handbook
California employers are required to pay for unauthorized overtime even if it is forbidden under employer policy.

It is also important to note that many employers have policies forbidding employees from working unauthorized overtime. Your employer may discipline or even terminate you for violating such a policy--even though s/he is still obligated to pay you for the unauthorized overtime.

4. What are my options if my employer fails to pay me overtime?

California employment law provides employees with the right to bring a wage/hour lawsuit against their employer for failing to pay overtime as required by California overtime law.

In a successful overtime lawsuit, you could collect

  • the unpaid balance of the overtime compensation that your employer withheld from you;
  • interest on that amount; and
  • reasonable attorney's fees and litigation costs.15

In many cases, employees who have been wrongly denied overtime by their employers are not alone. If your employer has systematically failed to pay overtime or required "work off the clock" from you and other employees, then you may be able to join a class action employment suit brought by a reputable California employment lawyer.

Call us for help....

Employment-law-firm-call-center

For questions about California overtime laws or to discuss your case confidentially with one of our skilled California labor and employment attorneys, do not hesitate to contact us at Shouse Law Group.

We have local employment law offices in and around Los Angeles, San Diego, Orange County, Riverside, San Bernardino, Ventura, San Jose, Oakland, the San Francisco Bay area, and several nearby cities.


Legal References:

  1. Labor Code 510 LC -- Day's work; overtime; commuting time. ("(a) Eight hours of labor constitutes a day's work. Any work in excess of eight hours in one workday and any work in excess of 40 hours in any one workweek and the first eight hours worked on the seventh day of work in any one workweek shall be compensated at the rate of no less than one and one-half times the regular rate of pay for an employee. Any work in excess of 12 hours in one day shall be compensated at the rate of no less than twice the regular rate of pay for an employee. In addition, any work in excess of eight hours on any seventh day of a workweek shall be compensated at the rate of no less than twice the regular rate of pay of an employee. Nothing in this section requires an employer to combine more than one rate of overtime compensation in order to calculate the amount to be paid to an employee for any hour of overtime work. The requirements of this section do not apply to the payment of overtime compensation to an employee working pursuant to any of the following: (1) An alternative workweek schedule adopted pursuant to Section 511. (2) An alternative workweek schedule adopted pursuant to a collective bargaining agreement pursuant to Section 514. (3) An alternative workweek schedule to which this chapter is inapplicable pursuant to Section 554.")
  2. Same.
  3. Morillion v. Royal Packing Co. (2000) 22 Cal.4th 575, 584–85. ("Along with other amici curiae, the California Labor Commissioner notes that “the time the employee is suffered or permitted to work, whether or not required to do so” can be interpreted as time an employee is working but is not subject to an employer's control. This time can include work such as unauthorized overtime, which the employer has not requested or required. “Work not requested but suffered or permitted is work time. For example, an employee may voluntarily continue to work at the end of the shift.... The employer knows or has reason to believe that he is continuing to work and the time is working time. [Citations.]” (29 C.F.R. § 785.11 (1998).) “In all such cases it is the duty of the management to exercise its control and see that the work is not performed if it does not want it to be performed.” (29 C.F.R. § 785.13 (1998).) ")
  4. Labor Code 515 LC -- Exemptions [from overtime law]. ("(a) The Industrial Welfare Commission may establish exemptions from the requirement that an overtime rate of compensation be paid pursuant to Sections 510 and 511 for executive, administrative, and professional employees, if the employee is primarily engaged in the duties that meet the test of the exemption, customarily and regularly exercises discretion and independent judgment in performing those duties, and earns a monthly salary equivalent to no less than two times the state minimum wage for full-time employment. The commission shall conduct a review of the duties that meet the test of the exemption. The commission may, based upon this review, convene a public hearing to adopt or modify regulations at that hearing pertaining to duties that meet the test of the exemption without convening wage boards. Any hearing conducted pursuant to this subdivision shall be concluded not later than July 1, 2000.")
  5. Labor Code 511 LC -- Alternative workweek schedules [exception to California overtime law]. ("(a) Upon the proposal of an employer, the employees of an employer may adopt a regularly scheduled alternative workweek that authorizes work by the affected employees for no longer than 10 hours per day within a 40-hour workweek without the payment to the affected employees of an overtime rate of compensation pursuant to this section. A proposal to adopt an alternative workweek schedule shall be deemed adopted only if it receives approval in a secret ballot election by at least two-thirds of affected employees in a readily identifiable work unit. The regularly scheduled alternative workweek proposed by an employer for adoption by employees may be a single work schedule that would become the standard schedule for workers in the work unit, or a menu of work schedule options, from which each employee in the unit would be entitled to choose. Notwithstanding subdivision (c) of Section 500, the menu of work schedule options may include a regular schedule of eight-hour days that are compensated in accordance with subdivision (a) of Section 510. Employees who adopt a menu of work schedule options may, with employer consent, move from one schedule option to another on a weekly basis. (b) An affected employee working longer than eight hours but not more than 12 hours in a day pursuant to an alternative workweek schedule adopted pursuant to this section shall be paid an overtime rate of compensation of no less than one and one-half times the regular rate of pay of the employee for any work in excess of the regularly scheduled hours established by the alternative workweek agreement and for any work in excess of 40 hours per week. An overtime rate of compensation of no less than double the regular rate of pay of the employee shall be paid for any work in excess of 12 hours per day and for any work in excess of eight hours on those days worked beyond the regularly scheduled workdays established by the alternative workweek agreement. Nothing in this section requires an employer to combine more than one rate of overtime compensation in order to calculate the amount to be paid to an employee for any hour of overtime work. (c) An employer shall not reduce an employee's regular rate of hourly pay as a result of the adoption, repeal, or nullification of an alternative workweek schedule. . . .For purposes of this section, “work unit” includes a division, a department, a job classification, a shift, a separate physical location, or a recognized subdivision thereof. A work unit may consist of an individual employee as long as the criteria for an identifiable work unit in this section is met.")
  6. Labor Code 3353 LC -- Independent contractor [not subject to California overtime law]. ("“Independent contractor” means any person who renders service for a specified recompense for a specified result, under the control of his principal as to the result of his work only and not as to the means by which such result is accomplished.")
  7. Labor Code 515 LC -- Exemptions [from overtime law], endnote 4 above.
  8. Labor Code 511 LC -- Alternative workweek schedules [exception to California overtime law], endnote 5 above.
  9. Same.
  10. Labor Code 510 LC -- Day's work; overtime; commuting time, endnote 1 above.
  11. Same.
  12. Same.
  13. Morillion v. Royal Packing Co., endnote 3 above.
  14. Same.
  15. Labor Code 1194 LC -- Action to recover minimum wage, overtime compensation, interest, attorney's fees, and costs by employee. ("(a) Notwithstanding any agreement to work for a lesser wage, any employee receiving less than the legal minimum wage or the legal overtime compensation applicable to the employee is entitled to recover in a civil action the unpaid balance of the full amount of this minimum wage or overtime compensation, including interest thereon, reasonable attorney's fees, and costs of suit.")

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