California Overtime Laws

Most employees are entitled to overtime compensation for working more than 40 hours a week, or more than eight hours in a day. California's overtime laws can be confusing for both employees and employers. There are many exceptions and exemptions from these rules. Miscalculating overtime can be a costly mistake. So it's worth your time and money to learn the basics of when you qualify for overtime under California overtime laws.

California Overtime Law Summary

This chart highlights key provisions of California overtime laws.

State and Federal Statutes

California Overtime Pay Rates

Overtime pay of 1.5 time the employee's regular rate of pay:

  • Hours worked in excess of 8 up to and including 12 hours in any workday
  • First 8 hours worked on the seventh consecutive day in a workweek
  • All hours worked in excess of 40 in a workweek

Overtime pay of double the employee's regular rate of pay:

  • Hours worked over 12 hours in any workday
  • Hours worked over 8 on the seventh consecutive day of work in a workweek.

Available Remedies

If your employer wrongfully withheld overtime pay, you may have the right to:

  • Back pay
  • Damages
  • Attorney's fees
  • State civil penalties
  • FLSA violation penalty up to $10,000

Filing a Wage Complaint

Note: State laws are subject to change. It's important to verify the information you read about by conducting your own research or consulting with a qualified California employment attorney.

California Overtime Laws

In California, the state overtime law requires a nonexempt employee to be paid 1.5 times their regular rate of pay for all hours worked over eight hours in any workday and/or over 40 hours in the workweek. An employee's regular rate of pay is doubled for all hours worked over 12 hours in any workday and for all hours worked over eight on the seventh consecutive day of work in a workweek.

Employers must follow both state and federal overtime rules. Federal overtime requirements are contained in the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). When differences exist between California and federal overtime rules, an employer must follow the rule that gives the most benefits to the worker. Typically, California law provides more benefits to workers.

Who is a Nonexempt Employee?

A nonexempt employment status means that the provisions of the Industrial Welfare Commission (IWC) Orders cover an employee. These orders regulate the wages, hours, overtime pay and working conditions in certain California industries and occupations. California law presumes that all employees are nonexempt, so they are eligible for overtime pay.

The employer has the burden of actively classifying an employee as exempt, so simply providing a title to an employee does not make them exempt in the eyes of the law. The employee must meet very specific requirements for each applicable exemption. California recognizes the following exemptions:

  • Executive/managerial exemption
  • Administrative exemption
  • Computer professional exemption
  • Commissioned inside salesperson
  • Commissioned outside salesperson

What's a Regular Rate of Pay?

Overtime is based on the regular rate of pay, which is the compensation you normally earn for the work you perform. The regular rate of pay can include several different types of payments, such as hourly earnings, salary, piecework earnings, and commissions. In no case may the regular rate of pay be less than the applicable minimum wage.

If you are paid on an hourly basis, that amount is the regular rate of pay. A nondiscretionary bonus is included in the regular rate of pay when it is based upon hours worked, production or proficiency. Discretionary bonuses paid as gifts at a holiday or other special occasions are not included for purposes of determining the regular rate of pay.

Counting Your Hours in a Workweek

Employers must calculate the work week as a fixed schedule of a continuous, seven-day, 24-hours per day schedule. It does not have to be Sunday to Saturday. It can start on any day of the week and end seven consecutive days later.

Common Overtime Violations

Errors in calculating overtime are common. It's not just employers who are trying to save a buck that fail to pay overtime. Even if your employers misunderstood the rules, you're entitled to receive back pay. Here are some common ways overtime laws are violated:

  • Treating workers as exempt
  • Having employees work off the clock or volunteer hours
  • Improperly using "comp" time
  • Not paying for all the hours worked
  • Treating employees as independent contractors

Got Overtime Issues? Get a Free Claim Review

Both California and federal laws provide for an employee's right to overtime pay. If you are experiencing an overtime issue at work or were denied overtime pay, you have legal options. An experienced California attorney can help you recover lost wages and any damages caused by a denial of overtime pay. Receive a free claim review to learn more about your rights under California law.

Next Steps: Search for a Local Attorney

Contact a qualified attorney.