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How do you know if you have a right to overtime pay?

You work hard. You stay until you finish the job, not when the clock tells you to go. Your supervisor appreciates your hard work and tells you that you're a team player. So why aren't those extra hours showing up on your paycheck?

California law requires anyone paid by the hour (nonexempt) to be paid overtime for any work over eight hours in one day, or 40 hours in one week. 

The right to overtime

If you have worked more than eight hours in a day, your employer must pay the extra time at one and one-half your regular wage. If you work more than 12 hours in a day, it bumps up to double your regular wage.

Several exemptions and exceptions do exist, however, including: 

  1. Executive, Administrative and Professional employees. These employees are exempt from certain sections of the law. They include computer software employees.
  2. Government employees. This can include the state or any of its subdivisions, such as county or city workers.
  3. Drivers. Professional drivers are subject to their own set of regulations, including the number of hours they can drive in a day.
  4. Workers covered by a collective bargaining agreement. If the agreement covers wages and hours of work, then that agreement will apply.
  5. Alternative workweek schedule. Certain industries have adopted a regular schedule requiring employees to work more than eight hours a day. For example, many healthcare shifts are 12 hours.

These examples represent some of the broader categories of exceptions. The exceptions include many other specialized employees.

What are your rights?

If you don't fall under one of the exemptions or exceptions, then the law protects your right to overtime pay. You may still have questions, however, such as:

  • Do they have to pay for unauthorized overtime? Yes, although you should be aware that you may be subject to discipline if your employer has a policy against overtime and you decide to work the time, anyway.
  • Does your regular rate of pay include bonuses? It does if you get the bonus as part of your regular work, rather at the discretion of your employer.
  • What about holidays and sick days? Overtime is only calculated on time you actually work, so if you were out for a holiday, even if it is a paid holiday, that day is not calculated toward overtime.
  • Can your employer require you to work overtime? Yes, they can, and they can discipline you if you refuse to work the schedule they give you. They cannot, however, require you to work more than six days in a row. They must give you the seventh day off.

Where does this leave you? If you feel that your employer has violated your overtime rights, you can file a wage claim against your employer with the California Division of Labor Standards Enforcement.

A commissioner there will review and decide your claim. Your employer cannot legally retaliate against you for filing the claim. You are entitled to the money you earned. If your employer is not paying what they owe, you have options.

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