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Familiarity with overtime is essential for both employees and employers alike. It is imperative for both employees and employers to possess a comprehensive understanding of how overtime pay functions. Employers who neglect their responsibility to accurately compensate employees for overtime hours worked may find themselves facing significant financial liabilities, potentially amounting to tens of thousands of dollars. In this comprehensive guide, we will delve into the intricacies of working overtime in the state of California, shedding light on the essential aspects and ensuring that you are well-informed on how to calculate it.

What Is Overtime in California?

Overtime pay is computed as 1.5 times an employee’s regular rate of pay. While it is true that not all employees are qualified for overtime pay, it is vital to recognize that the vast majority of employees are. In the state of California, employees who meet certain conditions are eligible for overtime pay in three different scenarios. Domestic employees and farm laborers are subject to separate regulations, each with their own set of guidelines and responsibilities.

What is Considered Overtime in California?

Overtime refers to the accumulation of working hours that exceed the standard 40-hour weekly threshold, in addition to surpassing 8 hours within a single workday. Both options meet the necessary criteria. Overtime pay is due for the first eight hours of a seventh consecutive day of work. So, if an employee exceeds the standard 8-hour workday, they will receive overtime compensation at a rate of one and a half times their regular pay.

How to Calculate Overtime in California?

You can calculate Californian overtime based on an employee’s hourly compensation. To calculate overtime pay, divide the employee’s annual salary by 52 weeks of work at 40 hours per week. A worker can receive compensation for several jobs performed. They base their overtime on a weighted average of these rates. Employees can be compensated using one of two methods:

  • Piecework
  • Commission. 

There are two methods for calculating these situations: Piece rate or commission employees get 1.5 times their regular rate for productivity during the first four overtime hours of a workday (time and a half pay) and double their regular rate for all hours worked after 12 hours. The usual rate is multiplied by 0.5 for hours worked in excess of eight but less than twelve per day to calculate overtime pay. They also receive overtime pay at their regular rate for hours worked in excess of twelve. Manually computing weighted averages or commissions is a time-consuming task. Using an automated timer as a management tool makes handling the process easier. A worker earns overtime if they exceed 40 hours of work in a week, regardless of their daily hours.

Therefore, time off during the workweek, whether paid or unpaid, does not contribute to overtime. The employee who works five consecutive eight-hour days but takes the sixth day off due to illness does not receive overtime pay. They omitted the extra 8 hours when they received payment for 48 hours. Employees cannot calculate overtime compensation using bonuses or other benefits provided. Also, employees can grab vacation pay as a perk. Employers must calculate overtime pay using the employee’s regular rate of pay, which includes any nondiscretionary bonuses based on hours worked and quality of work. Below are the steps to calculate overtime in California:

#1. Define Your Working Days and Weeks

According to California law, a workday precisely defines a consecutive 24-hour period that starts at the same designated time every calendar day. The workday can vary in its commencement, depending on factors such as the employer’s policies, the nature of the job, or the classification of the worker. We highly recommend that business owners in California establish a clear definition of the workday by determining its designated start time. You should practice this, as it enables you to accurately calculate overtime pay for your hardworking employees.

According to California law, you must establish the commencement of the workday. If you fail to do so, we will deem the workday to span from 12:01 a.m. to midnight. In California, employers calculate overtime pay on a daily basis by considering the total number of hours an individual has worked within a single workday. If non-exempt employees exceed the standard 8-hour workday, they are eligible for overtime compensation. Note that the practice of averaging hours across multiple workdays is not permissible in such cases.

For instance, let’s consider a skilled carpenter who spends a total of 10 hours on Monday and an additional five hours on Tuesday. By calculating the average, we determine that this diligent individual hones their craft for approximately 7.5 hours per day. We must acknowledge and honor his entitlement to receive overtime compensation, despite the fact that his average work hours fall below the standard 8-hour mark. As a diligent business owner, you must establish a well-defined workday that aligns with your professional commitments. Once you select this workday, only make changes under special circumstances and with a valid business reason. Also, be sure that any workday changes are permanent.


When calculating overtime pay for nonexempt employees who work more than 40 hours, employers must use the first day of the workweek.  An established and customary workweek in California consists of “any seven consecutive days beginning on the same calendar day each week, beginning at any hour on any day.” The first day of the workweek can start on any day of the week, depending on the company, the position, or the type of employees. Employees must adhere to the established workweek, regardless of their availability. A weekly schedule cannot be altered without good cause, just like a typical weekday.

Temporary adjustments don’t affect overtime pay. Multiple Wage Orders issued by the Industrial Welfare Commission (IWC) of California permit “alternative workweek schedules” under the state’s Labor Code Section 511. With these schedules, employees can work fewer but longer shifts each week. Under an alternative workweek schedule, employees who are not exempt from overtime pay may work more than eight hours each day.

Employers should never use the need for, or the willingness of employees to participate in, a flexible work schedule as a means to avoid paying overtime. California labor law considers shifts of 10 hours or fewer each day during a 40-hour workweek as an alternative workweek. Employees who work an alternative workweek plan that exceeds the 10-hour per day limits are entitled to overtime pay at 1.5 times the regular rate of pay for all hours worked between 10 and 12 hours and twice the standard wage for any hours worked over 1.

#2. Count the Employee’s Working Hours for Every Workday and Workweek

In accordance with the legislation in California, it is mandatory for employees to diligently record the commencement and conclusion times of their work shifts, as well as the duration of their meal breaks. After the completion of each workday and workweek, the employer diligently calculates the total number of hours worked by meticulously referencing the time records.

#3. Calculate the Amount of Daily Overtime Due

After assessing each employee’s shift duration, they must be properly compensated, including overtime.

You may want to see: How to Calculate Overtime: Free Tips, Guide & What You Should Know

How Are Wage and Overtime Conflicts Resolved?

If an employer engages in discriminatory practices or takes retaliatory actions against an employee who files a claim or seeks legal counsel regarding their employment rights, it is important to note that these actions directly violate the law. A skilled and experienced employment rights lawyer is your best ally when it comes to protecting your employment rights in San Francisco. They will safeguard your rights and ensure that they hold your employer accountable for any violations with their expertise and dedication.

Highly skilled employment attorneys in the state of California can assist individuals seeking help with overtime disputes. These legal professionals effectively address and resolve such issues using a wide range of strategies. Typically, you engage in negotiations for an out-of-court settlement with the employer as the initial course of action. Out-of-court agreements save everyone time and money.

Alternative dispute resolution methods such as out-of-court negotiations have proven to be highly effective in cases where there is compelling evidence of an employer’s misconduct. If the employer refuses to resolve your overtime claim through private negotiations, your attorney may need to escalate the matter to trial. At this stage, your attorney will advocate for your rights and seek legal accountability from the employer by presenting your case before a jury.

What Pay is Required for Overtime?

Employers in the state of California must ensure that they duly compensate their employees for any overtime work performed, in accordance with the legally-established overtime pay rates. Furthermore, employers must adhere to the state’s mandatory days-of-rest law, ensuring that employees receive the necessary time off to rejuvenate and recharge.

In addition, employers in the state of California must compensate their employees with overtime pay if they exceed eight hours of work in a single workday or forty hours in a workweek. Employers can request that their employees exceed the standard eight-hour workday or work beyond the typical six-day workweek, as long as they compensate their employees with overtime pay in accordance with labor laws.

Is Over 40 Hours Overtime in California?

The labor regulations in California mandate that non-exempt employees receive compensation at a rate of one-and-a-half times their regular pay for the following scenarios: when they work beyond 8 hours in a single workday, when they exceed 40 hours in a workweek, or when they work for more than 6 consecutive days within a workweek.

What Is the Regular Rate of Pay in California?

California’s regular rate of pay is calculated by dividing an employee’s weekly earnings by their work hours. This calculation allows employers to accurately compensate their workforce based on the hours dedicated to their duties. By adhering to this method, employers ensure that employees receive fair and equitable compensation for their hard work and dedication. California’s labor laws promote openness and fairness in employer-employee relationships through the normal rate of compensation. The purpose of this tool is to accurately determine overtime compensation for employees who are not exempt from overtime regulations. This calculation involves multiplying the employee’s regular rate of pay by one-and-a-half, resulting in the appropriate overtime pay.

Can I Work 7 Days a Week in California?

Sections 551 and 552 of the California Labor Code grant employees the valuable right to enjoy a well-deserved day of rest within a seven-day period. Employees are not permitted to work more than six days per week in order to avoid overwork. In the event that your employer contravenes these regulations, it is conceivable that they may find themselves facing charges for a misdemeanor offense.

Can I Refuse to Work Overtime in California?

Employers in the state of California have the right to require their employees to work beyond their regular working hours, commonly referred to as overtime. Also, employers have the authority to administer disciplinary measures, such as demotion or termination, to employees who show reluctance to work additional hours in the majority of instances. Employers have the prerogative to modify an employee’s schedule or mandate overtime without prior notice in the realm of employment.

In a Nutshell

I hope this comprehensive article effectively addresses all inquiries pertaining to overtime policies in the state of California. If your employer refuses to compensate you for your legal overtime wages, or if you are an employee facing bogus salary allegations, hiring an attorney can be extremely beneficial. They can efficiently help you recover your losses, ultimately saving you both time and money with their expertise.


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