According to a federal law known as the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”), employers covered by the Act are required to pay non-exempt employees overtime wages when certain circumstances occur. Specifically, overtime is defined as any time logged by an employee that exceeds their normal work week schedule (usually over 40 hours in a single work week).

After 40 hours, an employee will be entitled to receive no less than one and a half times their regular rate of pay under the law. For example, if an employee is typically paid at a rate of $20 per hour, then their overtime rate for working beyond 40 hours in a standard work would be $30 per hour.

As for mandatory overtime requirements, an employer can force a non-exempt employee to put in 100 hours or more of overtime work without being in violation of federal law. An employer can even fire or penalize an employee who refuses to work overtime, so long as they pay them the rate of pay established by the FLSA (i.e., 1.5x their standard rate). Thus, the outcome of many forced overtime claims will depend on the laws of a particular state.

Similar to the FLSA, each state has enacted some version of regulations concerning forced or mandatory overtime laws. The majority of states have opted not to place a limit on the number of hours of overtime that an employee can be forced to work. On the other hand, a minority of states afford greater overtime protections to their workers. They may include additional protections, such as rest or meal breaks after a certain amount of hours have been worked.

What Circumstances Limit Mandatory Overtime Under California Laws?

Under California overtime laws, non-exempt employees are also entitled to receive one and a half times their standard rate of pay if they work beyond 40 hours in a given work week.

Unlike the FLSA, California overtime laws also offer additional protections to workers who put in overtime, such as allowing non-exempt employees to earn double time (i.e., twice their standard rate of pay) if they work over 12 hours in a single work day or over 8 hours on the seventh day of a work week.

As such, an employer can force a non-exempt employee in California to put in mandatory overtime work, so long as they pay the legally required amount of wages for both federal and state.

However, there are some situations in which a California employee may be allowed to refuse to work overtime without the fear of consequences. Some examples of circumstances where mandatory overtime may be limited under California overtime laws include:

  • When a non-exempt employee believes that it would impose a safety risk to others or to themselves, or if it would create a health hazard. For example, if they were too tired to continue operating heavy machinery.
  • If a non-exempt employee has an employment contract that specifically states they may only work a certain number of hours per week and having to perform overtime work would violate their contract.
  • A non-exempt employee may also refuse to do overtime work when their employer either refuses or fails to pay the proper amount of wages for that work (i.e., the employer is in violation of federal and/or state overtime wage laws).
  • In California, a non-exempt employee who has already worked six consecutive days can refuse to put in overtime on the seventh day in a row of that same work week.
  • Finally, if a non-employee has already worked overtime during the previous week and they have also worked an additional 72 hours or more over the course of the current week, then they may refuse to do overtime work for the current work week.

Do Overtime Standards Apply to All Jobs?

In general, most workers who are paid by the hour will be protected by overtime wage laws. However, there are some exceptions to overtime rules. Specifically, workers who are salaried tend not to receive overtime. As of recently, the FLSA has exempted employees who hold white collar positions wherein their duties fall into an executive, administrative, or professional capacity.

California also limits overtime pay for employees who are paid hourly and work in the computer software field, are salespersons, or are directly employed by the state or a political subdivision in the state. Taxi drivers, airline employees who work less than 60 hours a week, student nurses, carnival ride operators for traveling carnivals, and professional actors are also among the many types of workers who may be exempted from overtime wages in California.

In addition, there are special rules for independent contractors, volunteers, and seasonal workers. These requirements will vary based on whether an individual is applying federal or state laws. For instance, some common examples of the types of workers who may be exempt from overtime pay under the FLSA include:

  • Small farm workers and some kinds of agricultural employees;
  • Some types of newspaper jobs, vendors, or carriers;
  • Any worker who must sleep at their workplace (e.g., overnight babysitters, nannies, or live-in healthcare workers);
  • Seamen for foreign vessels or employed by fishing operations;
  • Workers in the retail space or service industry who get paid in commission or tips; and
  • Forest protection and fire prevention workers.

What are Some Other Important Overtime Considerations Under California Rules?

There are many details to consider when reviewing overtime regulations in California. One question that frequently arises in connection to such laws is whether an employer must pay a non-exempt employee for overtime if it was not authorized. According to California law, employers must pay qualified employees overtime, regardless of whether that time was authorized by them or not.

Another important issue that often comes up regarding California overtime laws is when the employee should expect to receive payment for the overtime hours that they worked. Under California labor laws, employees who work overtime must be paid for those hours no later than their next regularly occurring payroll period.

In addition, there are certain types of payments that should be excluded from the definition of an employee’s regular rate of pay when calculating overtime rates, such as those that are considered employee gifts, paid vacation days, expense reimbursements, or for holiday work.

Lastly, it is important to note that there are certain industries in California where state laws may impose limits on the amount of overtime that a non-exempt employee can work, depending on their industry.

Should I Hire a California Lawyer if I’m Facing Forced Overtime Legal Issues?

Overtime legal issues often require the assistance of a lawyer due to the confusing laws and complicated procedures used in resolving them. Therefore, if you are involved in a dispute with your employer regarding overtime issues, then you should consider consulting a California employment attorney for further legal advice.

An employment attorney who has experience in handling overtime legal matters will be able to seamlessly guide you through the filing process for submitting a complaint to a state or federal government agency. If necessary, they can file a wage and hour lawsuit with the proper court.

Your attorney will also be able to determine whether you qualify as a non-exempt employee and if you should be receiving overtime payments in accordance with the FLSA and California state laws.

Additionally, if you are asked to appear in court, your attorney will be able to represent you during any hearings or case-related meetings with your employer and their counsel.