California Overtime Law: Everything You Need To Know

Nov 15, 2019 | California Wage Laws, Employment Laws

Overtime definition: What is overtime?

California Overtime Law: Everything You Need To Know. Overtime can be defined as time spent working beyond typical working hours. The term can also be used to refer to the pay a person receives for this time. 

According to the DIR (Department of Industrial Relations), overtime is extended to nonexempt California employees – employees who are directly supervised and paid an hourly wage as opposed to a monthly salary. Nonexempt employees are protected by California wage and hour laws, which require meal breaks, rest breaks, and overtime. Here’s more on nonexempt and exempt employees in California.

How many hours is overtime?

California has protections in place for employees who work for longer hours than normal. These protections are meant to ensure employees work with fair compensation. As a result, California overtime pay is defined on a daily as well as a weekly basis.  

The overtime period or extra hours for nonexempt employees begins after 8 hours of work per workday or after 40 hours of work per workweek. California nonexempt employees who work all week (7 days consecutively) are also eligible for overtime on Sundays. Working for over 6 days in a single workweek also qualifies a worker for overtime.

How much overtime does a nonexempt employee qualify for?

1. 1.5 times the regular pay: If you work for over 8 hours every workday up to 12 hours, you are entitled to 1.5 times your regular hourly pay for every extra hour worked. You are also entitled to 1.5 times your regular hourly pay on the seventh consecutive workday for the first 8 hours of work. 

2. Double the regular pay:  If you work for over 12 hours during any workday, you are entitled to double your regular hourly pay for all extra hours worked in a workday. You are also entitled to double your regular pay if you work more than 8 hours on the 7th consecutive workday in a workweek. 

California overtime chart: How to calculate overtime in California

Hours workedOvertime
Over 8 hours in a workday1.5 times the normal hourly pay for every extra hour worked
Over 12 hours in a workdayDouble the normal hourly pay for every extra hour worked
Over 40 hours in a workweek1.5 times the normal hourly pay for every extra hour worked
7 days per workweek1.5 times pay for every hour worked on Sunday.Double the normal hourly pay for working more than 8 hours on Sunday.

Define workday: According to the California Labor Code 500 and IWC (Industrial Welfare Commission) orders, a workday is a 24-hour period that starts at a given time, every calendar day. Workdays can begin anytime, and the start of one employee’s workday doesn’t have to coincide with the start of another employee’s workday. However, once established, workdays are permanent and can’t be changed to avoid overtime. An employee’s daily overtime is based on the no. of hours worked in a workday. Most importantly, it is unlawful to average hours over 2 or more workdays.

Define workweek: A workweek refers to any 7 consecutive days beginning on the same day every week (any hour or day) provided it is permanent and regularly occurring. Employers can establish different workweeks for their employees. However, once established, a workweek remains permanent. Workweeks can change only if the change is permanent and not meant to evade overtime obligations. 

Overtime laws: Which laws govern overtime?

California employers are supposed to pay overtime to most of their employees as per federal and California labor laws. Overtime is governed by two main laws, namely:

i. The FLSA

The Department of Labor’s (Wage & Hour Division) is tasked with regulating overtime, among other pay provisions through the FLSA. Besides overtime, the act regulates minimum wage activities and child labor-related issues.

The federal overtime law requires hourly employees working over 40 hours every workweek to be paid a higher hourly rate for overtime hours (minimum of 1.5 times the regular pay rate). 

ii. California overtime law 

In addition to the FLSA overtime of 1.5 pay for overtime hours, California employees are eligible for double the regular pay for overtime hours if they meet the conditions discussed above i.e., work for over 12 hours on any workday. Also, work beyond 8 hours on the 7th consecutive workday in a workweek should earn double the regular pay. 

Administrative regulations, as well as court cases interpreting the above laws, are also used as guidelines in determining overtime cases. When federal and state laws differ, the most favorable law is usually considered. California overtime laws offer more protection to employees than federal laws. As a result, California laws usually take precedence when determining employee rights issues.   

Exemptions and exceptions to the overtime law

The overtime law has exemptions (where it doesn’t apply) depending on factors like the classification of employees. The law also has exceptions (special rules) where overtime is paid to certain employee classifications based on other basis. Special rules on overtime apply to a wide range of workers. 

a. Exemptions to the overtime law

Many specialized workers are exempt from some parts of overtime law. They include, but aren’t limited to:

  1. Executives, professionals and administrative staff
  2. State, city & county employees
  3. Outside salespeople
  4. Some drivers
  5. Family members of an employer
  6. Some commissioned workers
  7. AmeriCorps workers

b. Exceptions to the overtime law

The overtime law may not be applicable if certain rules apply (schedules and establishments). For instance, overtime law doesn’t apply to:

  1. Workers under a CBA (Collective Bargaining Agreement)
  2. Workers subject to alternative workweek schedules (i.e., workers working 4-hour workdays). 
  3. Residential caregivers or babysitters. 

Important: There’s more to what is discussed above. It’s advisable to check the conclusive list of overtime law exemptions and exceptions to see if they apply to you. 

How is overtime calculated?

Overtime is based on the regular or normal rate of pay. An employee earning X dollars an hour will be paid overtime based on that rate. The rate can vary from one employer to another. However, it can’t be less than California’s minimum wage

Overtime applies if you work more than 8 hours daily or over 40 hours weekly. If you work less than 40 hours in a workweek but work more than 8 hours on some workdays, overtime should be calculated based on those days only. 

How is the rate of pay calculated?

To calculate overtime, you must calculate an employee’s regular pay first. If you earn an hourly wage only, that’s your regular rate of pay. If you earn an hourly wage plus other things like shift differentials, among other hourly-based compensation, your regular rate of pay should include such compensation.  

If you earn a salary, the regular rate of pay should be calculated as follows: Multiply your monthly salary by 12 to get your yearly salary. Divide the result by 52 to get your weekly salary. When you divide the result by 40 (max. number of hours per week without overtime), you’ll get your hourly rate of pay. If you earn more than one rate, your employer should use a weighted average to determine your regular pay. 

Am I entitled to overtime pay for working unauthorized overtime?

Yes. In California, employers must pay overtime even if it is not authorized. They must also pay at the applicable rate depending on overtime hours as per the guidelines of calculating overtime discussed above. Although an employer can take disciplinary action if an employee violates overtime policy, California labor regulations require employers to compensate workers for all hours worked, whether authorized or not.

The law requires employers to know about instances of unauthorized overtime or the need for overtime beforehand. California employers are legally obligated to keep accurate employee working records and pay their employees accordingly. Such records must be produced if directed by a court or the relevant agencies charged with the mandate of handling employee-related issues.

Will my bonus be included when calculating my regular pay?

Yes. Nondiscretionary bonuses are included in overtime calculations. If the bonus includes compensation for hourly work, proficiency, production, or as a working incentive, the bonus should be added in overtime calculations. If you earn a flat sum bonus, the bonus should be divided by 40 hours (max. No. of regular legal hours) in a bonus-earning period to find the normal rate of compensation on the bonus sum earnings.

Important: Other bonuses such as production bonuses are calculated differently i.e., bonus divided by hours worked during a bonus earning period. Overtime on such bonuses is paid at a different rate i.e., 0.5 or 1 (times the regular rate of payment) for all extra hours worked during a bonus-earning period.

What is excluded when calculating my regular rate of pay in overtime calculation?

Discretionary bonus paid as a gift during a special occasion or for rewarding good service independent of hours worked, efficiency, or production isn’t subjected to pay at overtime rates. Such a bonus isn’t included when determining the normal rate of pay. Other amounts like reimbursement expenses, payments for occasional periods like vacation pay, and sick leave are also excluded when calculating regular pay.  

Mandatory overtime

As the name suggests, mandatory overtime or forced overtime refers to the extra hours of work employers may compel employees to work. Although an employer can require an employee to work overtime in California, there are limitations to mandatory overtime in some wage orders

For instance, union employers must refer to collective bargaining agreements with respect to mandatory overtime. If there is no agreement prohibiting mandatory overtime, employers can require employees to work extra hours. However, employees must be paid the applicable overtime rate.

According to the DIR (Department of Industrial relations) in California, employers can dictate their employee’s working schedules and hours. Furthermore, under most circumstances, employers can discipline employees. 

In some instances, an employee can be terminated if they refuse to work during scheduled overtime. What’s more, employers can change employee schedules without being required to give a specified amount of notice by law. 

California wage order limitations on mandatory overtime 

There are several limitations on forced overtime in California. Some of the most notable wage orders include:

  1. Wage order 13

As per wage order 13, employees working in industries which prepare agricultural products can be required by employers to work for 72 hours a week. However, work beyond 72 hours during a workweek must be voluntary. What’s more, employers can’t take any retaliatory action against employees who refuse to work past 72 hours a week.

  1. Wage order 4

As per wage order 4, employees in clerical, professional, technical, mechanical, and other similar occupations can be required to work for 72 hours in any given workweek. However, work beyond 72 hours should be voluntary except in emergency situations clearly defined in wage order 4, section 2D.

  1. Wage order 16

As per wage order 16, some employees in on-site occupations such as drilling, construction, mining, and logging industries can also be subjected to mandatory overtime of up to 72 hours of work per week. Additional mandatory overtime beyond 72 hours can be demanded in emergency situations (unavoidable or unpredictable occurrences) requiring immediate action. 

  1. Wage order 3 & wage order 8

As per wage order 3 (employees working in the freezing, canning and preserving industries) and wage order 8 (employees working in industries that handle produce after harvest), employers in such industries can require their employees to work for 72 hours a week followed by a 24-hour mandatory off duty. 

When is mandatory overtime illegal?

In some circumstances, mandatory overtime can be illegal even if it is provided for. For instance, although employees can be compelled to work for more than 8 hours in a workday or over 40 hours in a workweek, they must receive overtime rates or higher.

Should you be paid overtime for attending training sessions?

Mandatory training sessions should be regarded as overtime hours and paid for accordingly. Some employers are guilty of pretending to offer voluntary training sessions. However, California labor laws treat training sessions as mandatory if workers are made to believe non-attendance will have an adverse impact on their job. The same applies to meetings outside normal working hours. If attendance is mandatory, such meetings should count as overtime. 

What do federal laws say on mandatory overtime?

The FLSA requires employees to be paid 1.5 times for every overtime hour worked; however, mandatory overtime isn’t prohibited. The FLSA does not dictate the hours employers can require their employees to work overtime, provided they are paid accordingly (1.5 times their regular pay) or more.

In fact, the FLSA gives employers a right to discipline employees who don’t work as per their schedules. Under the FLSA, an employee can be fired if they don’t work overtime. There may be exemptions, such as when mandatory overtime violates an existing employment contract. Mandatory overtime can also be foregone if there are health and safety risks. For instance, airlines can’t force pilots to work overtime since it introduces safety risks.

Generally, California labor laws on overtime are better and take precedence in determining overtime cases in California. 

When can I refuse to work overtime? 

How much overtime is too much? Workers are allowed to refuse overtime without consequences in specific scenarios. Some wage orders in California may have overtime limitations for different industries. You can refuse to work overtime if:

  1. A term/s in your contract will be violated
  2. Working overtime will create a health or safety hazard. For example, a driver or heavy machinery operator can refuse to work extra hours if they are extremely tired and believe they are a potential safety hazard if they continue working. 
  3. You aren’t compensated accordingly by your employer. Employers who violate California labor laws or federal law can’t force employees to do the same. 
  4. The employee has worked for at least 72 hours during a workweek, and they have been subjected to overtime during the previous week.
  5. The employee has been working for six consecutive days in a workweek. In such a case, you are at liberty to accept or reject overtime.

Negative effects of mandatory overtime

Overtime can be forced for the good of a company or simply because it is legal under certain circumstances. However, mandatory overtime can do more harm than good. Some of the notable negative effects of overtime include:

  • Poor morale
  • Decreased productivity
  • Poor employee retention
  • Legal problems or strikes

1. Poor morale

If overtime is constantly demanded from employees as opposed to a rare demand, it can diminish the morale of employees quickly, resulting in a counterproductive effect. While overtime is supposed to boost morale and productivity because the compensation is usually higher, if it is forced and required constantly, employees are bound to be less productive. 

Unmotivated and unfocused workers are bad for business. In fact, it doesn’t matter how much more unmotivated workers earn. Employers are better off with motivated workers who work a maximum of 8 hours than unmotivated workers who work over 12 hours. 

2. Decreased productivity

In fact, overtime doesn’t equate to increased productivity in some circumstances, such as when employee output is hard to measure on an hourly basis. Productivity isn’t linear. An employee who starts working twice as long isn’t necessarily going to get twice as much work done.

In fact, productivity is usually poorer past a certain number of working hours (when a person becomes tired and less focused). As a result, paying twice for work done simply because an employee is working longer hours is a risk, if the aim is boosting workplace productivity. 

3. Poor employee retention

If employees are constantly forced to work for more hours than they would like, they are bound to leave and look for better working conditions. Although employees are usually happy to make more money, they prefer to do it on their own terms. Forcing overtime just because it is legal will do more harm than good for an employer given the resources spent when hiring and retraining staff. Employees subjected to mandatory overtime are bound to leave the first opportunity they get. 

4. Legal problems or strikes

When employees start feeling mistreated, they are bound to pursue legal avenues. Besides affecting productivity, an employer will expose themselves to legal costs if they are sued or constantly faced by worker strikes. Since California labor laws tend to favor workers over employers, there is serious financial risk associated with forced overtime. A judge can rule in favor of workers who claim to be stressed or exposed to health and safety risks because of mandatory overtime. 

Unionized employees can organize themselves better and strike, resulting in huge losses for employers. Besides losing business, strikes tarnish the image of employers. What’s more, employers may not be able to take legal action against any employee who strikes or deny them pay during the strike period.

Is overtime necessary? What are the alternatives/remedies for overtime?

A clear mandatory overtime policy can help to avoid the negative effects of overtime discussed above. However, more can be done by employers to eliminate the need for mandatory overtime. It’s in the best interests of employers to give employees flexible working hours. Some of the alternatives or remedies to mandatory overtime include: 

1. Measuring output

A simple measure of employee output can tell employers whether current work schedules boost productivity or not. Measuring output can help confirm the need for overtime since many factors come into play. For instance, some employees may be productive during extra hours while others are suited to working regular hours only. 

Data-driven approaches towards measuring employee output can also help determine if there is actually a need for overtime with a high degree of accuracy.  Employers can invest in software to determine productivity levels and inspire customized working schedules that account for employee differences, among other factors.   

2. Rewarding productivity

Overtime tends to reward hours worked as opposed to productivity. Employers should actually reward productivity. If an employee can do a day’s work in 6 hours without compromising on quality, they can enjoy rewards like leaving early or enjoy a special bonus. Such actions can encourage workers to be more focused and productive during regular working hours, eliminating the need for mandatory overtime.

3. Better planning

The need for overtime can also be eliminated by meticulous planning. Hiring professionals like project managers can seem unnecessary. However, a perfectly managed project can result in huge savings. When employees are assigned work, and their performance is tracked, performance is bound to improve, especially if employees have everything they need to work optimally.

In a factory setting, productivity can be low because of lack of raw materials. Better planning can ensure employees are constantly productive during regular working hours. Carefully managed projects from start to finish rarely fall behind schedule, eliminating the need for overtime.  

4. Better communication

Mandatory overtime problems can be avoided by better communication. Communicating the need for additional working hours in good time can reduce the number of employees disgruntled by forced overtime. Also, employers can announce the need for overtime and give employees an opportunity to volunteer, eliminating the need to force overtime on anyone.  

5. Hiring part-time or temporary employees

It might be better for an employer to hire new employees instead of forcing existing ones to work for longer hours. Overtime pay isn’t cheap for employers. In fact, overtime laws are designed to discourage employers from overworking their employees. Hiring part-time or temporary employees may be a better solution, especially if the workload is project-based. Employers who plan accordingly can identify excess workload in the future and plan to hire temporary or part-time staff to do the work.

Resolving overtime issues: What do I do if I am denied overtime?

California employees are arguably the most protected employees; however, there are still employers who deny them their rights. 

Employees who have been denied overtime have three options, namely:

  • Resolve overtime issues internally with an employer
  • File a claim for unpaid wages with relevant government agencies
  • File a lawsuit

1. Resolve overtime issues internally with an employer

Some employers may be willing to address any overtime issues you may have. Calculating overtime is a complex issue, especially if the process is done manually. Errors are common when calculating overtime; however, deliberate instances of unpaid overtime should be forwarded to investigative agencies. If your employer is willing to compensate you for unpaid wages after a complaint, you can resolve the matter internally. 

2. File a claim or charge (DLSE or EEOC)

DLSE claim

If an internal dispute resolution isn’t fruitful, you can file a DLSE wage claim. Claims filed with the State’s Division of Labor Standards Enforcement are forwarded to the Deputy Labor Commissioner for determination. If the commissioner finds the claim worth an investigation, he/she will refer the claim for a conference or hearing. If the claim can’t be pursued for whatever reason/s (such as lack of adequate information), it will be dismissed.

If the commissioner decided on a conference, you and your employer will be notified of the venue, date and time where the conference will be held. The aim of a conference is to investigate the validity of your unpaid overtime claim or other overtime related issues and assess whether they can be resolved informally, without a hearing. If your claim can’t be resolved at this stage, it will move to the next stage- hearing. 

Hearings are formal legal processes characterized by testimonies under oath. Proceedings are also recorded. At the end of a hearing, an ODA (Order, Decision or Award) will be served. You/your employer have the right to appeal the ODA in a civil court where the matter will proceed to trial. You/your employer will have a fresh opportunity to table evidence and witnesses. 

Testimonies and evidence tabled in previous proceedings don’t count in the appeal stage. The ODA is final and enforceable if there is no appeal. The determination after an appeal is final and enforceable. You can collect your award from your employer at this point. 

There are timelines to be met during the above processes. For instance, ODA appeals must be filed before 15 days are over. There are many other procedures that must be considered. An employment lawyer can make the entire process easier. 

EEOC charge 

You can file a charge with another agency – the EEOC and receive compensation for unpaid overtime if your claim has an element of workplace discrimination i.e., equal pay discrimination. Filing an EEOC charge is equally challenging, given the time limits and other procedural guidelines that must be observed. An employment discrimination lawyer will come in handy if you need assistance. 

3. File a lawsuit

You can hire an employment lawyer in California to advise you and/represent you. Lawsuits on unpaid wages can be complicated. You need to have evidence as well as follow guidelines for such cases. In case you don’t have working records, a court can compel your employer to produce such records. California employers must keep detailed employee working records and produce them when required to.

A seasoned employment attorney will let you know about such guidelines eliminating any doubt concerning case viability if you don’t have your own working records. For such reasons, it’s always better to hire a lawyer before filing a lawsuit against your employer. 

Furthermore, most claims for unpaid overtime are better-off handled as class action suits if the unpaid amount for an individual employee is too little to justify hiring an employment attorney.  A lawyer will be able to advise you on the best way to proceed.

If you choose to pursue unpaid overtime on your own, you must decide whether to go seek relief under state or federal law. As mentioned above, California labor laws favor employees more than federal laws. However, in some instances, federal law might be better.

For instance, you can seek double the overtime due as penalty for unpaid overtime under federal law. On the other hand, California labor laws don’t allow employees to seek double damages. However, you can seek penalties for late payment. As a result, California labor laws may be better than federal law, and vice versa, depending on the facts of a case.

My employer hasn’t paid me as per the ODA. What can I do?

An ODA judgment against an employer must be honored. If not, the judgment is enforceable with the same force as any other monetary judgments entered by a court. You can try to pursue your award directly from your employer. If you aren’t successful, you can assign the DLSE to collect the award for you. If an employer doesn’t appeal an ODA, they are bound by the outcome. If they don’t pay you, they will face other penalties and still be forced to pay.

Can my employer retaliate because I have pursued unpaid overtime?

If you file a charge or claim to recover unpaid overtime and your employer fires you, demotes you, transfers you, or subjects you to other discriminatory actions, you can file a discrimination complaint with the DLSE. Alternatively, you can sue your employer. Employees have the right to pursue their rights without facing retaliatory action from employers. 

Frequently asked questions about overtime 

1. Why do overtime laws exist? What are the benefits of overtime law?

Employees are supposed to be paid more for extra work for several reasons. Firstly, overtime laws ensure extra pay, which is fair compensation for employees who sacrifice free time for longer working hours. Overtime laws also encourage employers to hire additional workers since it costs more to overwork existing employees than hire new ones. Lastly, overtime laws protect employees from being exploited by employers.  

2. Am I entitled to overtime if I earn a salary?

It depends. You must be nonexempt to qualify for overtime in California. Also, if you are exempted from overtime by California labor code provisions or IWC wage orders, you can’t receive overtime even if you are nonexempt.  

3. Can my employer force me to work overtime?

Employers are free to dictate employee working schedules. As a result, an employer can dictate working schedules that include working overtime. Employers can also discipline employees who don’t abide by working schedules. Disciplinary action can include termination. 

However, the law also protects employees. You can’t be disciplined for refusing to work overtime in some cases. For instance, you can refuse to work on the seventh day of a workweek without being disciplined. In fact, employers risk being subjected to penalties for denying their employees a resting day. Employees can accept or refuse to work on the seventh day of a workweek.

4. When should I be paid overtime?

Overtime is due during the next payroll period, after which overtime was earned. According to labor code 204, payment of overtime can be delayed to the next payday of the following payroll period. Straight time wages should be paid according to the time dictated by law i.e., on the pay period overtime was earned. If you are paid per week, twice a week, or twice a month, you should be paid not later than seven calendar days after the closing of a payroll period.

5. Can I waiver my right to overtime pay?

No. You must be paid all overtime that is due. If an agreement exists, it can’t prevent you from getting overtime that is rightfully yours as per Labor code 1194

6. Is working overtime worth it? What are the benefits of working overtime?

As an employee, you stand to earn more by working overtime in California. Overtime allows you to dictate how much you earn to a certain extent. With overtime pay, you don’t have to look for another job to make more money. 

However, working long hours might compromise your health and productivity in the long-term. Employees are supposed to strike a balance to get the best out of overtime. 

7. When does overtime start? Is overtime after 8 hours or 40 hours?

In California, employees who qualify for overtime (nonexempt employees) do so after working for more than 8 hours daily or over 40 hours in a workweek.

8. Can you get fired for refusing to work overtime?

No, if you have a valid reason such as those discussed above i.e., if working overtime violates the terms of your contract, if working overtime creates health and safety risks, if your employer hasn’t compensated you accordingly in the past or if you have been overworked during that workweek (worked 72 hours+), among other reasons.  You should contact an unpaid overtime lawyer in California to find out discus your rights on matters concerning overtime. 

9. Is mandatory overtime legal?

Yes, if an employee is compensated accordingly and contractual agreements aren’t violated. Mandatory overtime is illegal if it poses health and safety risks.

10. Can an employer make you work overtime without notice?

California labor laws give employers the right to determine employee working schedules. However, there are exceptions. For instance, CBAs (collective bargaining agreements), other employment contracts, and regulations applicable to certain industries may require employers to give at least a day’s notice for mandatory overtime.

11. Is overtime taxed at a higher rate?

No. Overtime increases the amount of taxable income. Unless your overtime earnings put you in a higher tax bracket, your taxable income rate remains the same. 

12. What is double overtime?

If you are nonexempt and you work for over 12 hours during a workday, you will be eligible to receive double overtime (double your regular hourly pay). The same applies if you work seven days consecutively. You will receive double overtime if you work over 8 hours on the seventh day of a workweek. 

13. Who is exempt from overtime pay?

Nonexempt employees are the only employees who qualify for overtime pay in California. White-collar employees such as executives, administrative employees, and professionals are exempt from overtime pay. Other exempt employees include some commissioned employees, union employees, licensed surgeons and physicians, private school teachers, truck drivers, outside salespersons, and computer professionals. 

14. Is there overtime for salaried employees? Do salaried employees get overtime?

Yes. According to the United States DOL (Department of Labor), there will be over 1.3 million new US workers eligible for overtime from 1st January 2020. Exempt employee overtime applies to those who earn $35,568 or less every year ($684 per month or less). Such employees will be eligible for overtime pay in 2020. Highly compensated employees who earn $107,432 or less per year will qualify for overtime in 2020. 

15. Should I be paid overtime if I miss my rest break or meal break?

Employees should be compensated for every hour worked. If your employer requires you to work through a meal break, you must be compensated accordingly. If you work over eight hours  daily or over forty hours weekly after counting meal breaks, you are entitled to overtime pay. You are supposed to receive an hour of extra pay for every meal break violation.

However, if you are allowed to take your meal break free of any duty or obligation, such breaks aren’t considered to be part of hours worked by an employee. As a result, you won’t be compensated. 

In California, employees should get 10 minutes of rest for every four hours of work. Rest periods are considered to be part of work. They are therefore included in overtime calculations. 

16. Am I entitled to overtime if I am “on-call”? 

Some employees, such as those in medical professionals, are required to be “on-call” which means their employer can call them to work anytime during that period. Some employees are supposed to be compensated based on factors such as the amount of control an employer has over an employee who is “on-call”.

If an employee can attend to personal matters while on call, and the employee isn’t subjected to restrictive control, they aren’t entitled to compensation. However, if an employee can’t do anything while “on-call”, they should be compensated accordingly. When determining “on-call” issues, courts usually examine several factors to determine if being “on-call” constitutes to hours worked.

The consideration is if the employee was supposed to be on-site. Courts also consider the terms of an “on-call” period, such as how fast an employee is supposed to report when called as well as the freedom of travel if any. The number of times an employee is called also matters. “On-call” restrictions are also considered.

For instance, is an employee free to exchange on-call duties with another employee? Can they attend to personal matters while on call? In most cases, on-call duties where employees have reasonable timelines for reporting to work and freedom to attend to personal matters while on-call don’t count as hours worked. However, if you feel your employer has violated your right to overtime, you can seek legal advice from an overtime attorney. 

17. Am I eligible for overtime when I am preparing for work?

There are tasks that some employees need to perform when preparing for work. Such tasks are considered to be part of hours worked if they are a mandatory part of a job. If there lacks a clear distinction if a task is part of a job, courts are at discretion to decide. In the past, courts have held that tasks like changing into workplace attire or uniform are part of hours worked. 

18. Is travel time and commuting time part of hours worked when calculating overtime?

Generally, the time an employee spends traveling to work isn’t part of a workday. This applies even among employees who have ridesharing programs where employers offer transport to work. However, if using transport provided by an employer is mandatory, such commuter time can be considered to be part of hours worked. Such time can be added when calculating overtime. Also, time spent traveling while working should also be counted as hours worked i.e., visiting a Jobsite from work.

Recent overtime cases in California

California employers, both public and private, have been taken to court for violating overtime laws. Some of the most recent overtime cases in California with notable settlements have been discussed below:

  • Santa Clara v. firefighters
  • Revel Systems v. employees

1. Santa Clara v. firefighters

Just recently, (in October 2019), Santa Clara city agreed to pay some of its employees $2.7 million as settlement for a lawsuit filed by five firefighters accusing the city of denying them and other workers due overtime rates for over four years. The settlement went towards back pay for all city employees who were supposed to receive overtime pay between May 2014 & August 2018, as well as attorney fees amounting to $150,000. The ruling was based on a 2016 Court of Appeal decision that changed overtime pay rules i.e., employers must consider cash payments made for unused medical benefits when computing overtime pay.   

In 2017, Santa Clara started working with firefighters to resolve allegations that unused medical benefits weren’t being used when calculating overtime. In 2018, the city agreed to update its overtime calculation policy and paid $1.7m as back pay to over 150 firefighters’ union members. A lawsuit followed shortly after on the basis that the city still owed firefighters money for damages and compensation for past overtime pay miscalculations. By agreeing to settle for $2.7m, the suit will be dismissed. 

2. Revel Systems v. employees

In 2019, Technology Company Revel Systems agreed to settle a class-action suit $2.75 million. The suit was filed by workers claiming the company denied them $250 to over $53,000 per employee as overtime compensation. In their filing, the 150 workers who were all internal sales representatives claimed their employer violated the FLSA. 

Common Occurrences For Employees in California – You May Be Entitled To Further Compensation

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