2020 California overtime rules

Learn how overtime works in California, and start calculating overtime automatically with TSheets.

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What is the overtime law in California?

California overtime law requires employers to pay eligible employees twice their rate of pay when those employees have worked more than 12 hours in a workday or more than eight hours on their seventh consecutive day of work. Eligible employees must be over 18 years old, though exemptions apply.

Employees who qualify for California overtime are paid at 1.5 times their standard rate when they work more than eight hours in a workday and more than 40 hours in a workweek. Employees also earn 1.5 times their standard rate for the first eight hours of their seventh consecutive day of work.

Unlike the federal overtime law, qualified employees are paid twice their standard rate when they work more than 12 hours in a workday or more than eight hours on their seventh consecutive day of work.

To be eligible to receive overtime payments, the employee must be over the age of 18 and employed in a non-executive, non-administrative, non-professional job. Employees over the age of 16 may also be eligible if they are legally allowed to leave school to start work. Employees on hourly rates, day rates, or an annual salary can still qualify for California overtime if they are not exempt (more on this below).

California overtime has many exemptions. For example, the employee is in a production role, so their pay can be quantified by the number of units the company produces. Also, exempt employees don’t have the freedom to choose how and when they do their job.

To be clear about who overtime laws apply to, check the exemptions on the State of California’s Department of Industrial Relations website and get professional advice if you have any doubts.

What are the California overtime requirements?

  • An employee must be over the age of 18.
  • An employee must be over the age of 16 and legally allowed to leave school to work.
  • An employee must be in a non-executive, non-administrative, non-professional job. But this list is not exhaustive.

How does California overtime work?

  • 1.5x hourly rate for work over 8 hours in a workday and 40 hours in a workweek
  • 1.5x hourly rate for the first 8 hours on the seventh consecutive day of work
  • 2x hourly rate for work over 12 hours in a workday
  • 2x hourly rate for work over 8 hours on the seventh consecutive day of work

What is a workday?

A workday is 24 hours long. It can start at any point in the day, but subsequent workdays should begin at the same time. Workdays do not need to coincide with the start of an employee’s shift, and an employer can set different workdays for different shifts. Once workdays are established, they can only be modified if the change is permanent and not made to avoid overtime payments.

What is a workweek?

A workweek in California is seven consecutive 24-hour periods, comprising 168 hours in total, that start on the same day and at the same time each week. A workweek can begin at any time of any day, as long as the time and day are fixed and recurring. Once established, the starting point of a workweek can only be changed if the change is permanent and not brought in to avoid overtime payments.

What is the California law after 8 hours?

Unlike other states where the provision for overtime starts after 40 hours of work in the workweek, California overtime starts after eight hours worked in a day. It applies to all nonexempt employees. California law presumes all employees are nonexempt. The burden lies with the employer to prove this otherwise. 

What is not covered by California overtime?

Executives: This is anyone who earns more than twice the minimum wage (currently equivalent to more than $720 a week). They also run a company or one of its departments and manage more than two employees with the power to hire them, review their work, and fire them.

Administrative employees: This is anyone who earns more than twice the minimum wage (currently equivalent to more than $720 a week). This is someone whose job does not involve manual labor but requires specialized training and allows them to decide how and when work is performed with minimal supervision.

Professional employees: This is anyone who earns more than twice the minimum wage (currently equivalent to more than $720 a week). This is someone whose job is in law, medicine, dentistry, optometry, architecture, engineering, teaching, accounting, sciences (if it does not involve manual labor), and the arts (if their work cannot be measured by a unit of production) and allows them to decide how and when work is performed with minimal supervision.

Some employees who may otherwise be eligible for California overtime will not receive it because they work a shift pattern different from the standard five, eight-hour days in a workweek—like four 10-hour days or three 12-hour days. Even though these shifts are over eight hours in length, employees only receive overtime once they work over 40 hours in any workweek.

Other professionals, like drivers, actors, student nurses, and some journalists, are also exempt from some or all aspects of California overtime law.

For more information on overtime exemptions, please see the State of California’s Department of Industrial Relations and always seek professional advice before deciding on who may or may not be exempt.

A workweek in California is seven consecutive 24-hour periods, comprising 168 hours in total.

How is California overtime calculated?

California overtime is based on an employee’s standard hourly rate of pay. If the employee is not paid by the hour but receives an annual salary and is eligible to receive overtime payments, calculate their hourly rate by dividing their annual salary by 52 (the number of weeks in a year) and then by 40 (the number of hours in a workweek).

If an employee receives two different rates of pay during a 40-hour workweek, their overtime is calculated using a weighted average of the two rates. Read more about this on the State of California’s Department of Industrial Relations website.

If an employee takes a day off during a workweek—a vacation day or a sick day, for example—these hours cannot be counted towards their overtime calculation. If an employee works 48 hours in a workweek, but they took one day/eight hours off, they are not eligible for overtime because they did not work more than 40 hours.

Other benefits that cannot be counted as overtime rates are discretionary bonuses (like an annual holiday bonus) because they are considered outside of an employee’s standard rate of pay. Nondiscretionary bonuses, on the other hand, are based on the number of hours worked and the quality of the work performed. And they are included in overtime calculations because they are part of the employee’s standard rate of pay.

For more information on the true cost of an hourly employee, check out the TSheets employee cost calculator

When should California overtime be paid?

California overtime should always be paid to eligible employees who work more than eight hours in a workday, more than 40 hours in a workweek, or seven days in a row. Employees should receive overtime pay in their next paycheck. This applies whether a manager has authorized the overtime or not.

In California, employees cannot prevent their employers from knowing that they are about to accrue overtime. Employers should, in theory, have the opportunity to refuse or authorize overtime requests in advance.

For more information about unauthorized overtime, see: Do I have to pay employees for unauthorized overtime?

Employees cannot opt out of receiving overtime payments. If they are eligible for overtime payments under California state law, they must receive them. If they do not receive the money owed, an employee has the right to file a lawsuit against their employer, with legal protection against discrimination in the workplace.

Last updated: October 2019

TSheets helps California business owners comply with overtime laws.

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California Overtime Rules (/resources/overtime-laws-california)