Federal and California laws require employers to pay overtime to employees who work more than a specified number of hours. Both sets of laws give employees the right to receive overtime unless they fit into an exception to the overtime laws. Employees who fall into these exceptional categories are said to be “exempt” from the regular overtime rules, and are not entitled to be paid extra when they work longer hours.
In California, employees are entitled to overtime if they work more than 40 hours in a week or more than eight hours in a day. California employees are also entitled to overtime for the first eight hours they have to work on the seventh consecutive day of a work week.
If you work overtime, you must be paid a premium for your extra hours. The overtime premium is one-and-a-half times your regular pay rate, often referred to as “time-and-a-half.” Your regular pay rate is the total compensation you earn, divided by the number of hours you work. For example, if you are paid by the hour, your regular pay rate is that hourly rate. If you are paid a weekly salary for full-time work, your regular pay rate is your salary divided by 40 hours. Other compensation—such as shift differentials, or bonuses for productivity, proficiency or attendance—must be included in the calculation as well.
California also requires employers to pay double time—twice your regular pay rate—when employees work more than 12 hours in one day or more than eight hours on the seventh consecutive day of a work week. For example, suppose you earn $20 per hour and usually work eight hours per day, Monday through Friday. However, during a busy week, you also work four hours on Saturday and ten hours on Sunday. You would be entitled to 40 hours of pay at your regular rate (40 x $20 = $800), 12 hours of time-and-a-half pay (12 x $30 = $360, for your four hours on Saturday and your first eight hours on Sunday), and two hours of double time for your remaining two hours on Sunday (2 x $40 = $80), or $1,240 total.
You are entitled to overtime unless you are exempt. The exemptions are a bit different for federal and state law. California’s exemptions are listed below; you can find information on the federal exemptions in our article on your rights to overtime pay.
You are exempt from overtime—that is, you aren’t entitled to earn overtime, no matter how many hours you work—if you fit into one of these categories:
Find more information for each of these exemptions at the California Labor Commissioner’s overtime exemptions page.
If you don't fit into one of these narrow exemptions, your employer should be paying you overtime. Some employers incorrectly treat all salaried employees as exempt from overtime. However, there is no legal basis for doing so. If you believe your employer should be paying you overtime, you should talk to an experienced employment attorney. An attorney can help you figure out whether you qualify for overtime and, if so, how much you might be entitled to collect in a wage claim against your employer. Learn more about filing a wage claim in California.