When you clock into work, you are entering an agreement with your employer that your labor will be exchanged for money. No matter your field, the rigor of your job, or the type of workplace, this is the essence of employment.
Usually, this exchange is fairly standard, and both parties honor their end of the bargain. Unfortunately, in some cases, one side does not uphold their end of this agreement, and legal action needs to be taken. One such occurrence is an employer’s failure to pay overtime wages. There are strict laws about how many hours you can work, and if your employer violates these laws, you have the right to ask the law to see that they make things right.
What Are The Overtime Wage Laws In California?
Here in California, overtime work is considered as one or more of the following:
- More than 40 hours of work per week
- More than 8 hours of work per day
- Seven consecutive days of work
If you do any of the above, your employer is obligated to pay you 1.5 times your wage. Many people refer to this as “time and a half.”
There are certain situations in which your employer is obligated to pay you two times your normal wage. These situations include:
- More than 12 hours of work in any single day
- More than 8 hours on your 7th consecutive day of work
These laws ensure that employees are properly compensated when they work more than the normal and legal amount of time.
Meals And Breaks
Because these rules are so specific, you can see how an individual employee may be eligible for overtime for skipping a meal or break time. If work is especially busy, skipping a 30-minute lunch break, for example, could easily put an employee at 8.5 working hours in a single day. According to overtime law, this extra half-hour must be compensated at 1.5 times the normal wage.
Meal and break laws vary from industry to industry. Generally, employees are entitled to a 30-minute lunch break for every five hours that they work. For every 4 hours worked, a 10-minute break is required.
Again, this may vary by industry, so be sure to check your employee handbook and/or the state of California’s official laws to determine what you are entitled to.
In some situations, employers attempt to claim that they did not authorize any overtime, and therefore do not have to pay overtime. This is false. Even if they did not give you permission to work overtime hours, they must pay you for the extra time you worked.
However, they are allowed to reprimand or even fire you for continually working unauthorized overtime. Many companies will try to make sure that their employees do not work overtime. In these cases, simply make sure that you leave your work before you hit overtime hours, even if you are in the middle of a project. Ultimately, it is the company’s responsibility to monitor working hours. If they do not want to pay overtime, they are responsible for ensuring that you clock in and clock out at the necessary times.
“Off The Clock”
One common and highly illegal practice done by many businesses is asking workers to finish projects “off the clock.” This is a way for them to avoid paying overtime. This is completely illegal. You deserve proper compensation in accordance with your actual hours worked. If they are asking you to work without clocking in, you can refuse on legal grounds.
In some situations, employees offer to take extra shifts, work extra hours, or fill in for a coworker when things are especially busy. However, in some overtime situations, an employer forces their employees to work overtime.
This may seem unfair or even illegal, but it is, in fact, completely within their rights to do this. Employers are even allowed to demote, reprimand, or even fire employees who refuse to participate in mandatory or forced overtime.
The only time when an employee cannot demote, reprimand, or fire an individual for forgoing overtime is on the 7th day of the week. All employees are guaranteed one day off per week. If the employee would like to come in and work overtime on the 7th day, they may. However, the employer cannot force them to do so, nor can they reprimand them for refraining from working.
Forced Overtime Pay
It is important to understand that forced overtime is still subject to overtime rates. Your employer must pay you in accordance with the above wages when they force overtime. If they fail to do so, they are acting illegally, and you can take proper action.
Suing For Overtime Wages
If your employer fails to properly compensate you for your overtime, you can take legal action. This may seem extreme but remember that work exists for you to make money and support your family. No matter how much you enjoy your job, they need to pay you properly for your labor.
When your employer violates overtime law, you can sue them for damages. Usually, these damages are simply the back pay that you were owed, and they failed to give you, plus interest. You may also be able to sue for attorney fees associated with the case.
Who Is Eligible?
These laws and legal actions apply to most employees. Some “exempt” employees have a different set of rules to follow. If you are exempt, your employer should have informed you of this when you were hired.
It does not matter if you are salaried. Overtime is to be paid to salary workers as well as hourly wage workers. The amount of hourly overtime pay simply takes extra calculation in the case of a salaried employee.
Contact the California Employment Counsel
If you believe that your employer has violated wage and overtime laws, it is time to take legal action. Here at the California Employment Counsel, our team takes these cases extremely seriously. We specialize in employment law and are ready to help you right away. Contact us online today to find out more.