California Unpaid Overtime Penalties

For many hourly employees in California, unpaid overtime is one of the biggest problems they face.  Oftentimes, employers fail to properly track overtime hours.  Sometimes, they intentionally fail to pay their employees overtime by manipulating the hours worked or by telling employees to work off the clock.


Employers owe overtime wages to their nonexempt employees in the following scenarios:


  • an employee works more than eight hours in one day
  • an employee works more than 40 hours in one work week
  • an employee works more than seven consecutive days in a work week
  • an employee works more than 12 hours in one day

For the first two instances, the employer must pay 1.5x the employee’s wages.  For the second two instances, an employer must pay 2x the employee’s wages.


This happens regardless of whether the overtime was authorized or not.  As long as an employer knew or should have known that the employee worked overtime, they must pay it (although they may discipline an employee for violating the company’s policy in terms of when overtime is authorized).


Overtime penalties are based on your “regular rate of pay.”  This can be somewhat complicated to calculate, as it includes hourly earnings, salary, piecework earnings, and commissions.


When are Overtime Wages Due?

Under California Labor Code Section 204, overtime wages must be paid no later than the payday for the next regular payroll period after which the overtime wages were earned. 


Waiving the Right to Overtime

An employee cannot waive their right to overtime.  California law requires that an employee be paid all overtime compensation notwithstanding any agreement to work for a lesser wage. So, even if your employer forced you to sign some type of waiver at some point, you can legally still collect your unpaid wages.


Deadline for Recovering Unpaid Overtime in California

Like other unpaid wages, the statute of limitations for is three years from the date the violation occurred.  In certain circumstances, this can be extended to four years.


If your employer has not been properly paying your overtime, or you believe they have not been properly logging your overtime hours, please contact our firm. 

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