California Labor Code on Work Day and Work Week
Explained by California Employment Lawyers

California employment law requires employers to pay overtime when employees work over a certain amount of hours in the workday or workweek. California labor laws also require employers to provide rest periods over the course of the workday.

Under California labor laws, non-exempt employees shall not work more than eight (8) hours in any workday or more than 40 hours in any workweek unless they are compensated with overtime pay.1

Some employers may utilize an “alternative workweek schedule.” However, employees on a regularly scheduled alternative workweek shall not work longer than ten (10) hours in a day within a 40-hour workweek without payment of overtime.2

In addition, rest breaks are required for non-exempt employees who work three and a half (3 ½) or more hours in a day. Employees are entitled to ten (10) minutes of rest period for each four (4) hours, or a substantial fraction thereof, that they work in a day.3

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California employment law requires employers to pay overtime when employees work over a certain amount of hours in the workday or workweek.

Below, our California wage and hour lawyers discuss the following frequently asked questions about workday and workweek rules and laws for California employees:

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

1. What are the workday and workweek requirements under California labor law?

The California Labor Code provides for meal breaks and rest breaks during the workday and limits on hours worked during the workday and workweek without overtime.

During the workday, non-exempt employees are entitled to rest periods and meal breaks. Rest breaks must be at least ten (10) minutes for each four (4) hours of work. Rest breaks must be counted as time worked and paid by the employer.4

Employees who work more than five (5) hours in a day are also entitled to a thirty (30) minute meal break. However, an employee may agree to waive that meal break if the employee does not work more than six (6) hours in the day.5

Employees are limited in the number of maximum hours they can work in a workday and workweek. If employees work over the maximum number of hours in a workday or workweek, they must be compensated at overtime rates by the employer.6

2. How long is a workday and workweek under California labor law?

Under California labor law, a “workday” or “day” means “any consecutive 24-hour period beginning at the same time each calendar day.”7

A “workweek” or “week” means any seven (7) consecutive days, starting with the same calendar day each week. A workweek is considered a fixed and regularly recurring period of 168 hours, or seven (7) consecutive 24-hour periods.8

3. What is an “alternative workweek schedule”?

Some employers use an “alternative workweek schedule.” An alternative workweek schedule may allow employees to work more than eight (8) hours in a day but not more than ten (10) hours in a day without overtime.9

Employees working over their alternative workweek scheduled hours or over 40 hours per week are compensated at not less than one and one-half (1 ½) times the regular rate of pay. Any work in excess of 12 hours per day is compensated at not less than double the employee's regular rate of pay.10

4. Which California employees are entitled to overtime and rest breaks?

Overtime

Non-exempt employees are entitled to overtime, rest breaks, and meal breaks under California labor laws. This includes “persons employed in professional, technical, clerical, mechanical, and similar occupations whether paid on a time, piece rate, commission, or other basis.”11

Exempt employees, unionized employees in certain industries, and independent contractors may not be covered by the same California labor hour/wage laws.

Exempt Employees

Some employees who are exempt from the standard lunch break and overtime laws include persons employed in administrative, managerial, executive, or professional capacities.12

In order to be considered an exempt employee in California, employees must meet the following requirements:

  1. Spend more than one-half of their work time performing intellectual, managerial or creative work;
  2. Customarily and regularly exercise discretion and independent judgment in performing those job duties; and
  3. Earn a monthly salary equivalent to at least twice the California minimum wage for full-time employment.13

Independent Contractors and Unionized Employees

In addition, California laws on breaks and overtime generally do not apply to workers qualify as independent contractors.

Additionally, overtime and break requirements may not apply to unionized workers in certain industries with a collective bargaining agreement. In California, these industries may include:

  • Motion picture industry
  • Broadcasting industry
  • Wholesale baking industry
  • Commercial drivers
  • Construction occupations
  • Security officers
  • Public utility companies14

5. How many breaks am I supposed to get during work?

Meal Breaks

Under the California Labor Code, employees who work more than five (5) hours in a day are entitled to a thirty (30) minute meal break. Employees who are working more than ten (10) hours in a day must also be given a second thirty (30) minute meal break.15

However, an employee may agree to waive that meal break if she or he will not work more than six (6) hours in the day. Additionally, an employee may waive this second meal break if he or she is not working longer than 12 hours, and the employee did not waive the first meal break.

Breaktime

Rest Breaks

Required rest breaks must be at least ten (10) minutes for each four (4) hours of work, or substantial fraction thereof. Rest breaks must be counted as time worked and must be paid time. When practicable, breaks must also be in the middle of the employee's work period.16

6. What happens if I work over the maximum workday or workweek in California?

Under California labor laws, 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.17

Overtime is paid at one and one-half (1 ½) times the regular rate of pay for an employee. However, Any work in excess of 12 hours in one day is compensated at no less than two (2) times the regular rate of pay for an employee. Any work in excess of eight (8) hours on any seventh day of a workweek is compensated at twice the regular rate.18

Example: Simon is working at a graphic design company and is paid an hourly rate of $20 per hour. Simon is a non-exempt employee and generally works 5 days a week, 8 hours a day.

Simon's employer asks Simon to come in on the weekend for additional hours to work on a big project for an important client. Simon ends up working for 14 hours on Saturday and 10 hours on Sunday.

In addition to Simon's regular 40 hour work week salary, Simon will be paid overtime at time and a half for the first 12 hours he worked on Saturday and double time for the 13th and 14th hours of Saturday. Simon will also be paid overtime at time and a half for the first 8 hours he worked on Sunday and double time for the 9th and 10th hours of Sunday.

7. What happens if my employer makes me work extra hours without overtime?

In general, your employer cannot schedule you to work more than eight (8) hours in a single workday or more than forty (40) hours in a single work week without overtime. When an employer makes the employee work more than the maximum number of hours without paying overtime, the employer may be breaking California labor laws.

8. Can I sue my employer for violating California workday or workweek labor laws?

California employees may file a lawsuit against employers for denying rest breaks or failure to pay overtime as required under California labor laws. Successful wage and hour class action lawsuits often involve failure to provide meal breaks, rest periods, or failure to pay overtime.

Employers who do not allow employees to take rest breaks or meal breaks will owe the employees one hour's pay for each break the employee was denied.19

A successful claim against an employer for unpaid overtime can include unpaid overtime compensation, interest, and attorney's fees and court costs.20

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For questions about California workers' overtime or rest break violations 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. 8 California Code of Regulations ("C.C.R") 11040. (“3. Hours and Days of Work (A) Daily Overtime - General Provisions (1) The following overtime provisions are applicable to employees 18 years of age or over and to employees 16 or 17 years of age who are not required by law to attend school and are not otherwise prohibited by law from engaging in the subject work. Such employees shall not be employed more than eight (8) hours in any workday or more than 40 hours in any workweek unless the employee receives one and one-half (1 ½) times such employee's regular rate of pay for all hours worked over 40 hours in the workweek. Employment beyond eight (8) hours in any workday or more than six (6) days in any workweek is permissible provided the employee is compensated for such overtime at not less than: (a) One and one-half (1 ½) times the employee's regular rate of pay for all hours worked in excess of eight (8) hours up to and including 12 hours in any workday, and for the first eight (8) hours worked on the seventh (7th) consecutive day of work in a workweek; and (b) 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 (8) hours on the seventh (7th) consecutive day of work in a workweek. (c) The overtime rate of compensation to be paid to a nonexempt full-time salaried employee shall be computed by using one-fortieth (1/40th) of the employee's weekly salary as the employee's regular hourly rate of pay.”)
  2. 8 C.C.R. 11040. ("3. Hours and Days of Work (B) Alternative Workweek Schedules (1) No employer, who has control over the wages, hours, and working conditions of employees, shall be deemed to have violated the provisions of Section 3, Hours and Days of Work, by instituting, pursuant to the election procedures set forth in this order, a regularly scheduled alternative workweek pursuant to the following conditions: (a) The alternative workweek schedule shall provide for work by the affected employees of no longer than ten (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. (b) An affected employee working longer than eight (8) hours but no more than ten (10) hours in a day pursuant to an alternative workweek schedule adopted pursuant to this section shall be paid an overtime rate of compensation of not less than one and one-half (1 ½) 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. (c) An overtime rate of compensation of not less than double the employee's regular rate of pay shall be paid for any work in excess of 12 hours per day and for any work in excess of eight (8) hours on those days worked beyond the regularly scheduled workdays established by the alternative workweek agreement. ")
  3. 8 C.C.R. 11040. ("12. Rest Periods (A) Every employer shall authorize and permit all employees to take rest periods, which insofar as practicable shall be in the middle of each work period. The authorized rest period time shall be based on the total hours worked daily at the rate of ten (10) minutes net rest time per four (4) hours or major fraction thereof. However, a rest period need not be authorized for employees whose total daily work time is less than three and one-half (3 1/2) hours. Authorized rest period time shall be counted as hours worked for which there shall be no deduction from wages.")
  4. Same.
  5. Labor Code 512 LC -- Meal periods; requirements; order permitting meal period after six hours of work; exceptions; remedies under collective bargaining agreement. ("(a) An employer may not employ an employee for a work period of more than five hours per day without providing the employee with a meal period of not less than 30 minutes, except that if the total work period per day of the employee is no more than six hours, the meal period may be waived by mutual consent of both the employer and employee. An employer may not employ an employee for a work period of more than 10 hours per day without providing the employee with a second meal period of not less than 30 minutes, except that if the total hours worked is no more than 12 hours, the second meal period may be waived by mutual consent of the employer and the employee only if the first meal period was not waived.")
  6. 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.")
  7. 8 C.C.R. 11040. ("2. Definitions (S) “Workday” and “day” mean any consecutive 24-hour period beginning at the same time each calendar day.”)
  8. 8 C.C.R. 11040. ("2. Definitions (T) “Workweek” and “week” mean any seven (7) consecutive days, starting with the same calendar day each week. “Workweek” is a fixed and regularly recurring period of 168 hours, seven (7) consecutive 24-hour periods.”)
  9. 8 C.C.R. 11040. ("2. Definitions (A) “Alternative workweek schedule” means any regularly scheduled workweek proposed by an employer who has control over the wages, hours, and working conditions of the employees, and ratified by an employee work unit in a neutral secret ballot election, that requires an employee to work more than eight (8) hours in a 24-hour period.”)
  10. 8 C.C.R. 11040. (3. Hours and Days of Work (B) Alternative Workweek Schedules, endnote 2 above.
  11. 8 C.C.R 11040 contains provisions on meal and rest periods. ("1. Applicability of Order This order shall apply to all persons employed in professional, technical, clerical, mechanical, and similar occupations whether paid on a time, piece rate, commission, or other basis, except that: (A) Provisions of sections 3 through 12 shall not apply to persons employed in administrative, executive, or professional capacities.")
  12. Same.
  13. Labor Code 515 LC -- Exemptions from meal and rest break requirements. (“(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.”)
  14. Labor Code 512 LC -- Meal periods; requirements; order permitting meal period after six hours of work; exceptions; remedies under collective bargaining agreement. ("(d) If an employee in the motion picture industry or the broadcasting industry, as those industries are defined in Industrial Welfare Commission Wage Order Numbers 11 and 12, is covered by a valid collective bargaining agreement that provides for meal periods and includes a monetary remedy if the employee does not receive a meal period required by the agreement, then the terms, conditions, and remedies of the agreement pertaining to meal periods apply in lieu of the applicable provisions pertaining to meal periods of subdivision (a) of this section, Section 226.7, and Industrial Welfare Commission Wage Order Numbers 11 and 12. (e) Subdivisions (a) and (b) do not apply to an employee specified in subdivision (f) if both of the following conditions are satisfied: (1) The employee is covered by a valid collective bargaining agreement. (2) The valid collective bargaining agreement expressly provides for the wages, hours of work, and working conditions of employees, and expressly provides for meal periods for those employees, final and binding arbitration of disputes concerning application of its meal period provisions, premium wage rates for all overtime hours worked, and a regular hourly rate of pay of not less than 30 percent more than the state minimum wage rate. (f) Subdivision (e) applies to each of the following employees: (1) An employee employed in a construction occupation. (2) An employee employed as a commercial driver. (3) An employee employed in the security services industry as a security officer who is registered pursuant to Chapter 11.5 (commencing with Section 7580) of Division 3 of the Business and Professions Code, and who is employed by a private patrol operator registered pursuant to that chapter. (4) An employee employed by an electrical corporation, a gas corporation, or a local publicly owned electric utility.")
  15. Labor Code 512 -- Meal periods; requirements; order permitting meal period after six hours of work, endnote 5 above. See also 8 C.C.R 11040. ("11. Meal Periods (A) No employer shall employ any person for a work period of more than five (5) hours without a meal period of not less than 30 minutes, except that when a work period of not more than six (6) hours will complete the day's work the meal period may be waived by mutual consent of the employer and the employee. Unless the employee is relieved of all duty during a 30 minute meal period, the meal period shall be considered an “on duty” meal period and counted as time worked. An “on duty” meal period shall be permitted only when the nature of the work prevents an employee from being relieved of all duty and when by written agreement between the parties an on-the-job paid meal period is agreed to. The written agreement shall state that the employee may, in writing, revoke the agreement at any time. (B) If an employer fails to provide an employee a meal period in accordance with the applicable provisions of this order, the employer shall pay the employee one (1) hour of pay at the employee's regular rate of compensation for each workday that the meal period is not provided.
  16. 8 C.C.R 11040, section 12 (Rest Periods), endnote 3 above.
  17. Labor Code 510 LC -- Day's work; overtime; commuting time, endnote 6 above.
  18. Same.
  19. 8 C.C.R 11040. ("11 . . . (B) If an employer fails to provide an employee a meal period in accordance with the applicable provisions of this order, the employer shall pay the employee one (1) hour of pay at the employee's regular rate of compensation for each workday that the meal period is not provided. . . . 12 . . . (B) If an employer fails to provide an employee a rest period in accordance with the applicable provisions of this order, the employer shall pay the employee one (1) hour of pay at the employee's regular rate of compensation for each workday that the rest period is not provided.")
  20. 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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