Under state and federal law, employers must pay workers overtime pay if they work over a certain number of hours.
If an employer fails to fairly compensate a worker for the wages they earned, the employer can be held liable through a California unpaid overtime claim.
If you have questions or immediate assistance, please don’t hesitate to contact our experienced California wage & hour lawyers.
When Does an Employer Need to Pay Overtime?
Under federal law, employers must pay eligible workers time-and-a-half for any hours they worked over 40 per week. However, California law is more generous to workers than federal law.
Under California law, eligible employees are entitled to receive time-and-a-half if they meet either of the following criteria:
- They worked more than eight hours per day; or
- They worked more than 40 hours per week.
In addition, California employment law mandates employees receive twice their regular rate in either of the following situations:
- They worked more than 12 hours per day; or
- They worked more than 8 hours a day for seven or more consecutive days.
However, to qualify for overtime pay, a worker must be classified as a “non-exempt” employee under state or federal law.
Which Employees Are Eligible for Overtime Pay?
While many California workers are entitled to overtime pay if they work over the threshold number of hours, not all employees can receive overtime pay. In the employment-law terminology, employees who are eligible for overtime pay are referred to as “non-exempt” employees. This term comes from the fact that the employee is not exempt from the requirements of the Fair Labor Standards Act (for federal cases) or the California Labor Code (for state claims).
While there are differences between state and federal law when determining whether an employee is exempt, there is a large overlap. While it may come as a surprise, a worker’s status as exempt or non-exempt does not necessarily depend on whether they are paid hourly; employers must pay some salaried employees overtime in certain situations.
Under state and federal law, the most commonly exempt employees are administrative employees, professional employees, and executive employees. This is often referred to as the “white-collar exemption.”
Under this exemption, an employer does not need to pay overtime if an employee:
- Spends 50% of their time or more fulfilling administrative, professional, or executive duties;
- Exercises discretion and independent judgment in how they carry out their work-related duties; and
- Earns a salary or wage equivalent to at least twice the state’s minimum wage.
While the white-collar exemption is the most common reason why an employee may not be entitled to overtime pay, there are specific exemptions that apply to certain professions, including:
- Computer professionals,
- Doctors and surgeons,
- Commission-earning employees,
- Employees of the University of California, and
- Outside salespeople.
Each of these groups of workers has different overtime rules that apply specifically to them.
Misclassification of Employees as Exempt
One of the more common California overtime pay violations involves an employer’s misclassification of one or more employees as exempt.
Employers have every reason to classify employees as exempt workers because they can save a significant amount of money in overtime pay. However, an employer’s classification is not legally binding; courts have the ultimate say in whether an employee is exempt.
Thus, if a worker believes they should be entitled to overtime pay but their employer insists they are ineligible, the worker may pursue a claim for unpaid overtime in California asserting that their employer misclassified them as an exempt employee.
In California, the law presumes that every employee is entitled to overtime. It is up to the employer to prove, through evidence, that the employee is exempt from the overtime regulations.
Class Action Wage and Unpaid Overtime in California
When an employee discovers that their employer has denied them the overtime wages they deserve, it is very likely that they are not the only one.
In situations where an employer failed to pay multiple employees overtime pay, the workers can band together to file a class-action lawsuit against the employer. The same goes for a situation in which an employer misclassified a group of workers as exempt employees. Class action lawsuits offer several benefits over bringing a single case.
For example, employees bringing a class action lawsuit will often save on litigation costs, and employers tend to take these claims more seriously because so much is at stake.
Contact an Orange County Employment Lawyer for Immediate Assistance with Your Unpaid Overtime Claim
If you didn’t receive overtime pay that you were entitled to, reach out to an experienced Orange County employment lawyer at the Law Offices of Corbett H. Williams.
Corbett is dedicated to fighting for the rights of California workers and handles a wide range of employment disputes, including those on behalf of workers who were not paid for overtime. He can help you pursue a claim to hold your employer accountable for the wages you worked so hard to earn.
To schedule a free, no-obligation case review, give us a call or reach out through our online form.