California Overtime Law
In California, employers are required to pay nonexempt employees one and a half times the employee’s regular rate of pay for overtime. Overtime is hours worked in excess or 8 hours in one day or 40 hours in each week.
When an employer fails to pay an employee overtime, the employee may then recover the unpaid overtime from the employer for either three or four years back. Employers may also be subject to several penalties, which potentially include waiting time penalties, liquidated damages, and attorney fees.
Employers are not absolved from compensating nonexempt employees for overtime simply by paying an employee a salary. A nonexempt employee's regular rate for overtime purposes is calculated by dividing the employee's weekly salary by the number of hours the salary is intended to cover, up to a maximum of 40 hours per week. Lab C §515(d). The California Labor Code was amended January 1, 2013 to prohibit employment agreements that purport to include overtime hours in a nonexempt employee's salary.
A threshold consideration is often whether an employee is considered an exempt employee. There are three narrowly construed “white collar” exemptions for executive, administrative, and professional employees. These exemptions are narrowly construed and therefore many employers and employees incorrectly believe employees fall within an exemption. If there is a question about an employee’s status, you should seek the guidance of a competent employment attorney, because penalties accrue quickly.
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