Some working people love overtime because it means additional pay. Others resist overtime because it means less time for family and loved ones. If a legal dispute emerges regarding overtime, a working person will need advice from a San Francisco employment rights attorney.

Can a California employer force employees to work overtime? What does the law in California say about overtime wages and hours? Has your employer paid you everything that you’ve earned? What else should you know about overtime, your rights, and California law?

Employment in California is governed by confusing and overlapping local, state, and federal employment laws, but keep reading, and you will learn some answers to these questions about overtime – and what steps to take if a California employer violates your employment rights.

What California Employers May and May Not Do

California provides extensive legal protections to working people. Employees are protected by law from workplace discrimination based on nationality, religion, race, age, gender, disability, or pregnancy. They are not, however, protected from being required to work overtime.

Yes, employers in California may compel their employees to work overtime. In most cases, employers can also discipline, demote, or fire employees who refuse to work the extra hours. No notice is required before an employer may change an employee’s schedule or require overtime.

However, employers may not discipline employees who decline to work on the seventh day in a week, and employers violate the law if they coerce or induce an employee to not take a day of rest. An employee may voluntarily choose not to take a day of rest but may not be coerced.

What Pay is Required for Overtime?

California employers must pay their employees who work overtime at the legally-established overtime pay rates, and employers also must comply with the state’s mandatory days-of-rest law.

California requires employers to pay employees overtime when employees work more than eight hours in a workday or forty hours in a workweek. Requiring employees to work more than eight hours in a workday or beyond six days in a workweek is legal provided that employees are paid:

1. time-and-a-half for work over eight hours, up to and including twelve hours, in a day
2. double-time for any hours worked over twelve hours in a day
3. time-and-a-half for your first eight hours on a seventh day in a week
4. double-time for any hours over eight hours on the seventh day in a week

What Are the Exceptions to These Rates?

Several exceptions let employers pay overtime on a separate basis to specific employees in particular circumstances. Salaried employees must be paid for overtime unless exempted by law. Some workers may also be exempted by order of the California Industrial Welfare Commission.

The law in California provides that every employee in the state is entitled to one day off out of every seven days worked. The courts have interpreted the law to mean that “on average,” an employee must be given four days off each month.

Provided that employers give employees these four days off, there is no restriction on the amount of overtime that employers in this state can require of their workers.

What About Unauthorized Overtime?

Although employers may legally discipline or demote any employees who do overtime work without their employer’s authorization, California requires full pay for all hours that employees are, according to the law, “suffered or permitted to work, whether or not required to do so.”

Employees may not waive the right to overtime wages or agree to any private arrangement with an employer to work for a lesser pay rate than the law allows.

Wages for overtime work are to be paid no later than the payday for the next regular pay period after the overtime wages were earned, or for workers who are paid on a weekly, biweekly, or semimonthly basis, no more than seven days after the end of the pay period.

What Federal Law Protects Wage and Overtime Rights?

The federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) of 1938 protects every employee’s wage, hour, and overtime rights. But despite both federal and state laws, some California employers still try to cheat their hard-working employees out of legally-mandated overtime pay.

An unethical employer may ask you to work “off the clock.” An employer might even change your time sheet or try to pay you “straight time” for overtime hours. Do not let an employer take advantage of you this way. It’s against the law. Stand up for your rights.

If an employee can prove that an employer has not paid what is legally required, California courts can find that employer liable. If an employer is not paying you properly, speak about your situation with a California employment rights lawyer, and adhere to his or her advice.

How Are Wage and Overtime Disputes Resolved?

If any employer discriminates or retaliates against an employee who files a claim or speaks to a lawyer about employment rights, the employer is breaking the law. A San Francisco employment rights lawyer will safeguard your employment rights and hold that employer accountable.

Employment attorneys in California have a number of strategies for dealing with overtime disputes. Usually, trying to negotiate an out-of-court settlement with the employer is the first step. An out-of-court settlement can save both sides in the case a great deal of time and money.

When the evidence of an employer’s wrongdoing is strong, out-of-court negotiations are often successful. However, if the employer will not settle your overtime claim in private negotiations, your attorney can take your case to trial and ask a jury to hold the employer legally accountable.

How Will an Employment Rights Lawyer Help?

If an employer is cheating you, or if you aren’t sure, let a California employment attorney evaluate the case and offer you the sound advice and aggressive legal representation you need.

With a successful wage claim against an employer, you may be entitled to receive the wages you are owed, your legal fees, compensation for your emotional distress, and additional damages. You will certainly be entitled to justice.

California has no tolerance for dishonest employers, so if you are being cheated, you can put the law to work for you. However, you are the person who must take the first step and call a San Francisco employment rights attorney. The right attorney’s help can make all the difference.

By: Fred Geonetta

Frederick J. Geonetta is a graduate of the University of California, Hastings College of Law. His legal practice is entirely devoted to litigation. Mr. Geonetta has spent the past 25 years in private practice representing both plaintiffs and defendants who have been harmed or wronged by the actions of others or who have been falsely accused of causing harm to others. He represents clients across the U.S. and international clients who seek U.S. legal advice or representation.