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An Employee's Guide to Overtime Law in California

Posted by attorney Derek Emge

Employers often fail to pay overtime, either by accident or on purpose. Businesses sometimes implement creative policies to justify unpaid overtime. Some of these tactics include:

  • Off the Clock Hours:

An employer must compensate its employees for all time that they are required or even permitted to work, whether or not they are "on the clock." For example, a grocery store clerk must be compensated if they survey new produce before clocking in for the start of their shift.

  • Job Misclassification:

Employers often incorrectly classify employees as "exempt" to avoid paying overtime. There are only a few, specific situations in which an employee is exempt. Recognized exemptions include: administrative, executive, professional and some technical positions. Generally speaking, if an employee spends the majority of time performing non-exempt duties, regardless of their job title, the position might be misclassified and overtime compensation may be required under the law.

  • Several Locations:

Some employers fail to account for hours worked in more than one location at the same company. Required travel between locations must also be compensated.

  • Skipping Meal/Rest Periods:

If an employer prevents or even discourages employees from taking at least a thirty minute, uninterrupted meal period and/or a 10 minute rest period, an employee may be entitled to additional compensation.

  • Comp Time:

An employer may attempt to implement a system to offset days when more than eight hours were worked. "Comp time" can not be used by an employer as a means of avoiding paying employees overtime worked in a particular day.

  • Incorrect Calculation of Hours:

Some employers incorrectly calculate overtime soley by hours worked over a one week period. Instead, employees are entitled to overtime for all single day shifts in excess of 8 hours or hours in excess of 40 hours during a week.

  • Salaried Employees:

A major misconception among both employees and employers is that salaried employees are not entitled to overtime. In California, salaried employees may be entitled to overtime, depending on their job duties. See "Job Misclassification."

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