Which Employees Are Exempt From Overtime in California?

Employees are entitled to overtime unless they fit into one of the narrow exemption categories established by California law.

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.

How Overtime Works in California

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.

Who Is Entitled to Overtime in California?

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:

  • sheepherders
  • irrigators
  • actors
  • motion picture projectionists
  • crew members on commercial fishing vessels
  • ride operators employed by traveling carnivals
  • student nurses attending certain accredited schools
  • taxi drivers
  • certain airline employees
  • drivers of school buses and certain commercial vehicles
  • those participating in a national service program, like AmeriCorps
  • those who are employed by a child, spouse, or parent
  • announcers, news editors, or chief engineers of radio or television stations in towns or cities with no more than 25,000 residents
  • babysitters under the age of 18
  • certain personal attendants
  • employees covered by collective bargaining agreements that provide for pay that exceeds the minimum wage by set amounts and provide for overtime premium pay
  • employees covered by a collective bargaining agreement under the Railway Labor Act
  • employees who earn more than 1.5 times the minimum wage and receive more than half of their compensation in the form of commissions
  • outside salespeople (those who work at least half of their time away from the employer’s place of business selling items or obtaining contracts or orders for products, services, or facilities)
  • certain employees in the computer software field who earn a minimum hourly rate (the rate is adjusted each year), and
  • executive, administrative, and professional employees (those whose work is primarily intellectual, creative, administrative, or managerial and requires the use of independent judgment and discretion, as long as they are paid at least twice the state minimum wage for full-time employment and meet other requirements; examples may include upper management, executive assistants, teachers, accountants, artists, composers, and more).

Find more information for each of these exemptions at the California Labor Commissioner’s overtime exemptions page.

If You Aren’t Receiving Overtime

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.

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