Guide to Overtime Laws in California

Updated on Author: Sergei Lemberg

Updated on Author: Sergei Lemberg

California enforces some of the most stringent overtime laws in the United States, ensuring employees receive fair compensation for their hard work. Understand these laws to know your rights and take the necessary steps if you believe your employer owes you overtime pay.

In this guide, we will outline overtime laws in California.

Rate and Calculation

In California, the overtime pay rate is one and a half times (1.5x) the regular hourly rate. This criteria is for hours worked beyond 8 in a day or 40 in a week. Additionally, employers must pay double time (2x) for hours worked beyond 12 in a day or after 8 hours on the seventh consecutive day of work.

Example Calculation: If your regular hourly rate is $20 and you work 10 hours in one day, calculate as follows:

  • Regular pay for 8 hours: 8 x $20 = $160
  • Overtime pay for 2 hours: 2 x ($20 x 1.5) = 2 x $30 = $60
  • Total pay for the day: $160 + $60 = $220

Who Is Entitled to Overtime Pay?

Most employees in California can receive overtime pay. The key factors determining eligibility include:

Hourly Employees:

All hourly employees are entitled to overtime pay for hours worked over 8 in a day or 40 in a week.

Non-Exempt Salaried Employees:

Salaried employees may be eligible for overtime if they do not meet the criteria for exemption.  Example: earning below a certain salary threshold and performing non-exempt job duties.

Exemptions and Exceptions

In California, employees who meet specific criteria are classified as exempt from overtime pay under both federal and state labor laws. The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) entitles non-exempt employees to overtime compensation, while exempt employees do not receive this benefit. California Labor Law outlines additional criteria and specific professions that qualify for exemption.

General Criteria for Exemption

Employees exempt must be the following:

  • Salary Threshold: They earn a monthly salary of at least twice the California minimum wage for full-time employment.
  • Nature of Work: Their job involves duties in creative, intellectual, or managerial fields.
  • Discretion and Judgment: Their role requires the use of discretion and independent judgment.

Specific Exempt Professions

Certain types of professions are generally exempt from overtime pay in California:

  • Commissioned Employees: Those who earn most of their income from commissions.
  • Administrative Employees: Workers involved in administrative tasks directly related to management policies or general business operations.
  • Executives: Managers or supervisors who direct the work of at least two other employees and have authority over hiring and firing decisions.
  • Computer Professionals: Those paid on an hourly basis and work in programming, systems analysis, or software engineering.
  • Teachers: Educators working in private schools.
  • Outside Salespeople: Employees who regularly work away from the employer’s business selling products or services.
  • Truck Drivers: Interstate truck drivers who meet specific criteria.
  • Physicians and Surgeons: Licensed doctors and surgeons.

Union Employees

Union employees typically do not qualify for standard overtime provisions since their unions often negotiate different overtime rates. Collective bargaining agreements usually specify these rates.

Important Considerations

Employers must ensure that employees are classified correctly as exempt or non-exempt. If there is any doubt, the default classification should be non-exempt to ensure compliance with overtime laws.

Tests to Determine Employment Type

To determine if a salaried employee is exempt from overtime, California uses specific tests:

  • Salary Basis Test: The employee paid a fixed salary that does not fluctuate based on the number of hours worked.
  • Salary Level Test: The employee’s salary must be at least twice the state minimum wage for full-time employment.
  • Duties Test: The employee’s primary duties must involve executive, administrative, or professional tasks as defined by the law.

8/80 Rule for Overtime in California

The 8/80 rule is a specific overtime regulation that applies to employees in hospitals and residential care facilities in California.

This rule allows these employers to use a 14-day consecutive work period versus the standard 40-hour workweek.

Under the 8/80 rule, employees receive overtime pay if they work more than 8 hours in a single workday or more than 80 hours in a 14-day work period.

Understanding the 8/80 rule can help hospital and residential care employees ensure they are receiving the correct overtime compensation.

Senate Bill 616

In 2024, California implemented Senate Bill 616, drafted by Senator Lena Gonzalez. This new legislation, effective January 1, 2024, increases the mandatory number of paid sick days from three days to five days annually. California joins 15 other states that also have paid sick day laws.

California Labor Code Section 511

CA Labor Code Section 511 provides a framework for employers to establish alternative workweek schedules. This allows employees to work more than 8 hours in a day without incurring overtime pay.

Employers can draft a schedule where employees work 10-hour shifts for 4 days a week. Under this arrangement, employees do not receive overtime pay for the extra two hours each day, as long as they do not exceed 40 total weekly hours.

Before implementing an alternative workweek schedule, employers must present the proposal to the employees and obtain approval from the affected employees. This process typically involves a vote where at least two-thirds of the affected employees must agree to the new schedule.

When employees work more than 10 hours but up to 12 hours in a day, they receive overtime pay at 1.5 times their regular hourly rate for those extra hours.

If employees work over 12 hours a day, employers must pay double the regular rate for additional hours.

Additional Information on Overtime in California

  • Mandatory Overtime Restrictions: In certain situations, the law prohibits employers from requiring employees to work mandatory overtime, even if they receive correct pay.
  • Non-Waivable Rights: Employees cannot waive their right to receive overtime pay. Employers must honor the legal overtime rates of 1.5 times the regular pay for hours over 8 in a day and 2 times the regular pay for hours over 12 in a day.
  • Commute Time: Time spent commuting to and from home does not count towards work hours or overtime.
  • Travel Time for Merchandisers: Travel time during the workday for merchandisers, except for commuting from home, counts as work time and contributes to overtime.
  • Business Travel: Time spent traveling for business purposes, such as attending conferences, seminars, sales meetings, and training sessions, can count towards overtime if it causes the employee to exceed 40 hours in a week or 8 hours in a day.
  • Unscheduled Overtime: Employers must pay for overtime if they know the employee is working, even if it’s not on the timesheet.
  • Work Hour Limits: Employees may not legally work more than 72 hours in a week. They can refuse to work beyond this limit without facing penalties from their employer.
  • Paid Rest Breaks: When calculating overtime, include paid rest breaks. In California, employees receive a 10-minute break for every 4 hours worked and a 30-minute meal break after 5 hours of work.
  • On-Call Time: On-call time may count towards overtime if it results in the employee working more than 40 hours in a week or more than 8 hours in a day.

Actions to Take if You Think You’re Owed Back Overtime Pay

Act promptly when owed back overtime pay.  Here are the steps you should take:

  • Document Your Hours: Keep detailed records of your work hours and any communications with your employer regarding overtime.
  • Review Your Job Classification: Ensure that your job classification (exempt vs. non-exempt) is correct.
  • Contact Your Employer: Start by discussing your concerns with your employer or HR department.
  • File a Complaint: If your employer does not address the issue, you can file a complaint with the California Division of Labor Standards Enforcement (DLSE).
  • Consult an Attorney: For legal advice and to explore your options, consider consulting with an employment attorney specializing in wage and hour laws.

Statute of Limitations

In California, you generally have three years from the date the wages were due to file an overtime claim. If you also pursue a claim under the California Unfair Competition Law, you can extend this period to four years.

Comp Time vs. Overtime

In some situations, employees may receive paid time off instead of overtime pay, known as compensatory time or comp time. Use this option for irregular circumstances. Importantly, if an employee is eligible for overtime pay, an employer cannot require them to accept comp time instead. However, employees who prefer can choose to request comp time.

To be eligible for comp time, employees must work at least 40 hours per week and not already have more than 240 hours of accumulated comp time. Employees who wish to request comp time must submit a written agreement to their employer before working overtime hours. If approved, the employee will receive 1.5 hours of paid time off for every overtime hour worked.

Think You Have a Case?

If you believe your employer has violated overtime laws and owes you back pay, contact Lemberg Law for assistance.  Our experienced legal team will evaluate your case for free. Call us at 475-277-2200 or complete our online form to get started. You could receive compensation for damages, injuries, or lost wages due to federal and state wage law violations.


Sergei Lemberg

About the Author:

Sergei Lemberg is an attorney focusing on consumer law, class actions related to automotive issues, and personal injury litigation. With nearly two decades of experience, his areas of practice include Lemon Law (vehicle defects), Debt Collection Harassment, TCPA (illegal robocalls and texts), Fair Credit Reporting Act, Overtime claims, Personal Injury cases, and Class Actions. He has consistently been recognized as the nation's "most active consumer attorney." In 2020, Mr. Lemberg represented Noah Duguid before the United States Supreme Court in the landmark case Duguid v. Facebook. He is also the author of "Defanging Debt Collectors," a guide that empowers consumers to fight back against debt collectors and prevail, as well as "Lemon Law 101: The Laws That Lemon Dealers Don't Want You to Know."

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