What are the rules for overtime in California?
A California employee’s right to overtime pay is governed by both federal law; the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA); and California law; (Labor Code and Wage Orders of the Industrial Welfare Commission. Generally speaking, California law is more favorable to employees than federal standards, and California employers must comply with whichever standard provides greater protection to employees.
It is a common misconception perpetuated by some dishonest employers that an employee is not entitled to overtime pay simply because they paid by salary rather than hourly. It is not at all unusual for salaried employees to be told by their employer that they have no legal right to overtime pay because they are not hourly workers. It is important to know, however, that under California law it is the nature of an employee’s job duties, not their job title or the fact that they are paid a salary rather than by the hour, that determines whether or not that employee is entitled to overtime pay. Accordingly, it has been discovered in many cases, that employers have been wrongfully depriving employees of earned overtime pay.
Exempt vs. Non-Exempt
Generally speaking, the following employees are considered “exempt,” and are not subject to overtime pay regulations:
Executive, administrative, professional employees; outside salespersons, state and local government employees, members of the employer’s family, employee licensed under the Fish & Game Code, live-in employees in substance abuse alternative housing, student nurses, carnival ride operators, certain retail employees receiving sales commissions, certain motor carrier drivers, movie projectionists, broadcasting industry worker employed as announcers, news editors or chief engineers at a radio or television station in a city or town that has a population of no more than 25,000, irrigators, taxicab drivers, babysitters and personal attendants employed by a nonprofit organization.
Even an “at-will” worker may bring legal action against an employer who has wrongfully deprived that employee of overtime pay.
If an employee is unfairly terminated or harassed in retaliation for demanding overtime pay to which he or she is legally entitled, that employee may have a right to sue the employer for wrongful termination, even if they are an at-will.