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Working Late: Understand Your Overtime Rights

April 28, 2023 Overtime

Many employees look forward to overtime as it typically means more money in their pockets. Unfortunately, employers do not always pay their employees the wages they earned as a result of working overtime. If you believe that you have not received the overtime wages you are owed, contact an experienced overtime lawyer for help. 

When Are You Entitled to Overtime Pay?

Most people are aware that you are entitled to overtime pay (also referred to as “time and a half) any time you work more than 40 hours in a week. More specifically, however, you are entitled to be paid 1.5 times your regular rate of pay if you work more than:

  • 8 hours in a single workday;
  • 40 hours in a single workweek; or
  • 6 days in a single workweek 

It is important to note that the terms “workday” and “workweek” have specific meanings. They do not necessarily refer to a normal calendar day or calendar week. Basically, an employer can determine that a workday can be any 24-hour period and a workweek can be any 7 consecutive workdays for a particular employee, but once established, it essentially must remain that way. In other words, your employer cannot constantly change your workday or workweek in order to get around their obligation to pay overtime. 

That said, there are different rules for employees who work on an alternative workweek schedule (AWS). An AWS is one that allows employees to work more than 8 hours per day, limited to 10 hours. There are extensive rules concerning how these schedules may be implemented, but for purposes of this discussion, employees in this scenario are not entitled to overtime pay unless: 

  • They work more than 10 hours in a single day; or
  • They work more than 40 hours in a single workweek

California also allows unionized employees to agree to exceptions to overtime requirements. 

While this all sounds very straightforward, overtime pay can be more complicated in application. If you believe you are owed overtime pay, you should reach out to an experienced overtime lawyer as soon as possible. 

When Are You Entitled to Double Time?

An employee is entitled to double their standard rate of pay whenever they work more than:

  • 12 hours in a single workday; or
  • 8 hours on their 7th day of work in a single workweek

For example, let’s say that your typical workweek is Monday through Friday. On Monday, you worked 13 hours. You would therefore be paid time and a half for hours 9 through 12 and would receive double-time pay for your last hour. You then work your standard 8-hour shift Tuesday through Friday, with the last 5 hours of Friday being paid at time and a half because you are over 40 hours for the week. Because they are short-handed, you are called in for 5 hours on Saturday (time and a half) and for 10 hours on Sunday. On Sunday, you would be entitled to time and a half for the first 8 hours and would receive double-time pay for the last two hours. 

Again, this can be somewhat complicated, especially when an employee has an unusual work schedule. An overtime lawyer can evaluate your case and determine whether you may be entitled to overtime pay. 

Not All Employees Are Entitled to Overtime Pay

There are two main types of employees who are exempt from California’s overtime laws: 

  1. Exempt employees; and 
  2. Independent contractors

We realize that saying an exempt employee is exempt from overtime laws sounds circular, but it is one of the main reasons they are called “exempt.” A rough rule of thumb as to whether an employee is exempt is whether they are paid on a salary basis rather than an hourly wage. The most common type of exempt employee is those who work in “white collar” positions – executives and other professional personnel. 

Independent contractors are also not entitled to overtime pay. The reasoning here is that they are hired by contract and the number of hours they need to work is factored into the contract price. In addition, the contractor arguably has other remedies should they find that they are being under-compensated. 

Unfortunately, there are unscrupulous employers who will misclassify employees as exempt or as independent contractors in order to avoid paying them overtime and other benefits. The fact that you are designated as an independent contractor or paid a salary is not sufficient by itself. You should contact an overtime lawyer immediately if you believe that you have been misclassified and are therefore owed overtime pay. 

Unauthorized Overtime

There is a common misconception that employers are not entitled to pay overtime if the work was not authorized or the employee was not given permission to work extra hours. Under California law, employees are entitled to overtime pay even if they were not given permission or otherwise authorized to work overtime provided that their employer had reason to know that they were still working. For example, a salesperson stays late to help some customers who came in right before closing. He winds up spending over an hour with them after already working an 8-hour shift. He would therefore be entitled to overtime pay even though his employer didn’t expressly authorize him to work overtime because his boss was waiting for him to finish so that he could close the business. 

On the other hand, employees who are told to go home may not be entitled to overtime pay if their employers can demonstrate that they did not know they were still working. In addition, employers can take disciplinary action against employees who do not get permission to work overtime when required by company policy or are otherwise insubordinate. 

Are You Owed Overtime Wages? Contact Attorneys for Employees

People deserve to be paid the wages they earn, including overtime wages. If you are owed time and a half or double-time wages, we can help you hold your employer accountable. Contact us today to discuss your case and how we can help.