Overtime pay is an integral part of the United States work culture. As required by federal law under the Fair Labor Standards Act, employers are required to pay employees overtime for every hour worked over 40 hours per week. Overtime pay is defined as at least 1.5 times normal hourly rate of pay, but for certain occupations, such as police officers and firefighters, the regulations are different.
Like all other states, the state of California has its own unique laws supplementing federal laws. California overtime laws are more stringent than federal overtime laws. In California, overtime is calculated on a daily, not on a weekly basis. For up to four hours of exceeding 8 hours in one day, employers are required to pay 1.5 times the normal hourly wage.
There is also legal variation in whether salaried employees get paid overtime, based on state and federal laws. Employees who are not required to be paid overtime are categorized as “exempt.” Currently, there are approximate 50 million exempt workers from the 120 million workers in U.S. workforce. A person is considered exempt from receiving overtime pay if she meets at least one of the following conditions:
- She manages the entire business
- She supervises at least two subordinates
- She has the authority to fire employees
- She “exercise[s] independent business judgment.”
- She “spend[s] at least 50% of [her] time doing the above.”
Moreover, there are other preconditions that exempt employees from receiving overtime pay. California state law specifies these in more detail. In general, exemptions fall under five categories:
- the executive exemption
- the administrative exemption
- the professional exemption
- the computer software professional exemption
- the outside salesperson exemption
It is important to note that employers are required to pay overtime by the next payroll period following the time in which the overtime wages were incurred. Also, employees cannot waive their overtime rights, and employers can make employees work overtime, assuming that they pay them overtime as well. If employees refuse to work overtime when requested by employers, employers are allowed to discipline the employees.
Finally, it is important to note that employers are legally prohibited to retaliate against employees who seek their due wages, whether those be overtime or not. An example of retaliation is the firing of an employee who seeks his wages. If an employer does discriminate against an employee who seeks his wages, the employee can file a discrimination/retaliation complaint.