How is overtime pay calculated in California?

California provides robust overtime pay benefits to qualifying “non-exempt” workers. Under state law, employers must pay an employee overtime whenever they work more than eight hours in a workday or forty hours in a workweek. The standard overtime rate is 1.5 times the employee’s normal hourly wage.

In addition, California employees are paid double-time if they work over twelve hours in a workday. They also get double-time if they work over eight hours on the seventh consecutive day in a workweek. The standard overtime rate is 2.0 times the employee’s normal hourly wage.

In summary:

  • If an employee works more than eight hours a workday: 1.5x an employee’s normal hourly rate
  • If an employee works more than 40 hours in a workweek: 1.5x an employee’s normal hourly rate
  • If an employee works more than 12 hours in a workday: 2x an employee’s normal hourly rate
  • If an employee works more than eight hours a day on the seventh consecutive day in a workweek: 2x an employee’s normal hourly rate

Employees who receive performance-based commissions and who are non-exempt, in particular inside salespersons, are owed additional overtime based on their commissions, on top of their regular salary.

There is also an important catch to be aware of, which is that the “workday” starts and ends at midnight – unless the employer has communicated a different policy to all its employees. So, for example, if you work from 4 p.m. to 1 a.m., that is a 9-hour shift, but the law views this as 8 hours on day 1, and 1 hour on day two. So, this alone will not earn any overtime. The employer must apply such rules consistently, so it is best to check with an employment lawyer if this applies to you.

Some employers also have an “alternative workweek”—for example, four workdays of ten hours per day, at regular pay. These arrangements may be legitimate if the employer has followed the strict legal guidelines, including that it must have been approved by two-thirds of employees, and clearly communicated to everyone.

Employers often classify employees as “exempt” from overtime. Most of the time this is legitimate, but if there is any doubt whether you are owed overtime or not, it is best to consult a skilled wage attorney. Even high-paid jobs like inside sales, or tech support may be entitled to overtime.

Dealing with overtime violations can be challenging, and there are many special rules and exceptions that apply. Employees who believe their employer is unfairly withholding overtime pay should reach out to a Bay Area wage and hour attorney for assistance.

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