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California Overtime Law

Here is everything you need to know about how California overtime law works.
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There’s no doubt that California has some of the most complex labor laws in the United States, such as the overtime law. Often, the complexity of California overtime law leads to wrong interpretation, which in turn causes many employers to contravene its stipulations. 

In this in-depth guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know about the overtime law in California. We’ll tell you what the law says, who’s eligible to get overtime pay, how much the overtime rate and the consequences of breaking the law. 

We’ve turned every stone to help you get overtime pay right. We’ll also tell you how using the best time-tracking app lets you stay compliant. Let’s dive in. 

What is The California Law For Overtime?

To better wrap your head around the California overtime pay, you should first understand all the provisions. The core of the overtime law states: 

A non-exempt employee in California shall not be employed more than 8 hours a workday or 40 hours a workweek unless he or she is compensated one-half times (or two-times under specific conditions) their regular rate of pay for hours worked over 8 hours in a workday and over 40 hours in a workweek.” 

Put simply; all non-exempt employees are entitled to overtime for the actual hours worked more than 8 hours in a workday or 40 hours in a workweek. Moreover, employees are entitled to double time, or two times their regular rate of pay, for work over 12 hours in a workday.

The law throws around three terms that may appear simple but are usually misconstrued. They include non-exempt workers, workday, and workweek. We’ll discuss the meaning of non-exempt employees in the eligibility section; let’s shed light on the other two:

Workweek, Workday, and Full-Time: What Are They in Legal Terms?

Eight hours of work are what constitutes a day’s work. According to the Department of Industrial Relations in California, a workday is “any consecutive 24-hour period beginning at the same time each calendar day”. According to these regulations, it’s also important to know that the 24-hour period may begin at any hour of the day. Still, it has to be consistent and unchanged. 

A workweek in California constitutes seven consecutive 24-hour periods. It is a fixed and regularly recurring period of 168 hours. Similar to how the workday is defined, it has to start on the same day and at the same time every week. California employers are free to establish the time and the day when the workweek begins as long as they are fixed and regularly recurring. ‍

There are a few other essential things that employers need to be aware of:

  • Changes to the workday and the workweek. Employers in California can set different workdays and workweeks to the typical ones (five eight-hour days of work) for different employees or shifts under certain circumstances. But once the workdays and workweek are changed, this modification needs to be fixed and permanent. Again, the motivation behind this change must be something other than the avoidance of overtime pay.
  • Alternative Workweek Schedules. The Labor Code and the Industrial Welfare Commission (IWC) Orders allow for certain flexible scheduling arrangements without overtime pay, even if an employee has worked more than 8 hours in a workday. 

There are some requirements an employer has to meet when implementing an alternative work schedule. They may face significant liability if the implementation hasn’t been executed correctly. 

In the healthcare industry, it’s not unusual to see a workweek schedule comprising 12-hour workdays. This arrangement will be valid only if strict procedures are followed. For instance, in the case above, there can only be three 12-hour days in a workweek.

What is Considered Full-Time Under California Laws? 

Historically, working 40 hours per week qualified employees as full-time workers. However, things have changed with the introduction of the Affordable Care Act. Under California law, a full-time employee works at least 30 hours per week or at least 130 hours per month. 

But there is more to this. For example, employers can classify workers who work under 40 hours per week as part-time in California.

Other Provisions to Consider:

Beyond the core, we dug deeper to comprehend other California overtime stipulations prone to misinterpretation. 

Do I Have to Compensate Employees for Unauthorized Overtime in California?

Yes, under the California overtime law, employees are eligible to receive overtime pay in their next paycheck, whether authorized or not. In other words, employers must pay for all overtime worked by their staff, even if it wasn’t authorized. 

Still, bear in mind that an employer has the right to discipline an employee if they have violated the company’s policies related to overtime. Even so, you must compensate them for hours “suffered or permitted” to work. According to the California case law, “suffer or permit” refers to work you knew or should have known about.

Can I Require Employees to Work Overtime?

Yes, you’re free to create work schedules as you see fit, even if that entails requiring employees to work overtime. You may discipline employees for refusing to work scheduled overtime; the punishment may include termination. However, you cannot penalize an employee for refusing to work on the 7th day of their workweek. 

What Is the Longest Shift Employees Can Legally Work in California? 

Employers aren’t allowed to schedule their teams for more than 8 hours in a workday without overtime. Translated in a workweek, this boils down to 40 hours without overtime. 

However, when you bring overtime into the equation, there isn’t a legal limit on the number of hours an employee can work in a day.

California Overtime Employee Eligibility

California overtime laws ensure employees are fairly compensated for working extra hours. 

However, these laws don’t apply to all employees: some are exceptions, while others are exempted.

Before we get to the “exceptions” and “exemptions,” let’s see who’s entitled to California overtime pay.

The general provisions are that non-exempt employees are entitled to overtime pay in California. Non-exempt status means the employee is covered by the Industrial Welfare Commission Orders

Besides that, the non-exempt employee must be 18 years or older or a minor employee (16 or 17 years) who’s not prohibited from engaging in work or required by law to attend school. 

California Overtime Exemptions

Certain groups of employees are exempted from the California overtime law. An exemption means that the overtime law doesn’t apply to these groups of employees. Examples of workers who are exempted include:

  • Administrative, Executive, and Professional employees
  • Outside salespersons
  • Motion picture projectionist
  • Professional actors
  • Commercial fishing boat crews
  • Some airline employees
  • Taxicab drivers
  • Employee in the computer software niche

In addition, employees who’ve entered into a collective bargaining agreement under the Railway Labor Act are exempted. Read the California exemption guide for more details. 

California Overtime Exceptions

An exception means that the employee is entitled to overtime pay. Still, the basis differs from the one stated in the California overtime law. Some exceptions include:

  • Employees in the healthcare industry
  • Camp counselors
  • Personal attendants in non-profit organizations
  • Resident managers in care homes
  • Ambulance drivers and attendants
  • Sheepherders
  • Irrigators

The exceptions also extend to employees with a valid adopted alternative workweek schedule

The California law is specific on how to apply overtime pay for each of these classifications of employees. Check out the complete California overtime exceptions for the nitty-gritty details. 

Also, bear in mind that the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) explicitly covers specific jobs by the overtime pay laws. Example of overtime protection includes all first responders like paramedics, police, and firefighters. Several other professions that endure long work hours are protected under the FLSA, too: practical nurses and paralegals, although they would otherwise be exempt. 

Are Salaried California Employees Entitled to Overtime Pay?

Yes, you should compensate salaried employees for overtime work unless they qualify as exempt employees per requisite federal and state laws. Moreover, salaried employees exempted from overtime by IWC wage orders and the California Labor Code are not entitled to overtime pay. 

Note: If you have doubts about your employees’ eligibility, always consult employment lawyers or labor consultants who are well-conversed with California labor laws.  

How Does Overtime Work in California? Complying With California Overtime Law

We have covered the major provisions in the California overtime law. We now get into the gist of the law and answer the questions: 

How Much Is Overtime Pay in California?

According to the California overtime law, employers should compensate employees for overtime work at least:

  • One-half times their regular rate of pay for hours in excess of 8 hours up to and including 12 hours in a workday and for the first 8 hours of work on the seventh consecutive day of a 40-hour workweek. 
  • Two times their regular rate of pay for hours worked over 12 hours in a workday and hours performed in excess of 8 hours on the seventh consecutive day of a workweek. 

To compensate employees fairly for overtime work, you should accurately track their work hours — which isn’t easy, mainly if you use manual timecards. We’ll show you how Timeero simplifies overtime tracking, but first, what’s the employee’s regular rate of pay

timeero mobile app
Timeero time tracker is apt for all businesses, including those with hourly employees or independent contractors.

How to Calculate Overtime in California

Assuming you track employee overtime hours accurately, the final piece of the overtime pay puzzle is computing their regular rate of pay. Employee’s regular pay rate is the quotient of their total weekly earning divided by total work hours in the said workweek.

There are four ways of calculating the regular rate of pay depending on employees mode of payment:

  1. Hourly employees 

If you pay employees by the hour, the hourly wage represents their regular rate of pay. For example, if you pay an employee $20 per hour and they work 40 extra hours in a month, then the overtime pay will be ($20*40*1.5 = $1,200), assuming they’re entitled to one and a half times their regular pay rate. 

  1. Salaried Employees

If you have salaried or white-collar employees who qualify for overtime pay, this is how you compute their regular pay rate. First, multiply their monthly salary by 12 (months) to get their annual salary. Then, divide it by 52 (weeks) to get weekly earnings. Lastly, divide the figure by 40 — the legal maximum regular hours — to get the regular hourly rate. 

Let’s assume the employee earns $4,000 per month; the regular hourly rate will be:

($4000*12)/(52*40)= ~ $23.08 per hour

Suppose the employee works 40 extra hours that month, under the 1.5 times stipulations, they are entitled to ($23.08*1.5*40 = $1,384.8). You multiply the regular pay rate by the legal overtime rate and the number of hours the employee worked to get their overtime pay. 

  1. Employees Paid by Commission or Piece

If you pay employees by commission, there are three methods to compute their regular rate of pay:

  • You can use the commission rate as the regular rate of pay. However, you should pay employees one and a half times their commission rate for the first four overtime hours in a workday and two times the commission rate for hours worked beyond 12 hours in any workday.
  • Alternatively, you can divide employee total workweek earnings (including overtime earnings) by total hours worked (including overtime). Lastly, pay employees one-half that regular pay rate or two times, where applicable. 
  • If you employ by piece, you can calculate their regular rate of pay by group rate. In this case, you’ll divide the number of pieces the group produced by the total number of employees in the group. Lastly, divide that figure by the total hours an employee worked during the week to get their regular rate of pay.

For example, assume you have ten employees producing 7500 cups per week. If you pay employees $1 per cup and an employee works 50 hours in the workweek, this is how you compute the regular rate of pay. 

((7,500*$1)/10)/50 = $15

You can use that figure to compute employee compensation based on their overtime hours. Remember that if piece employees worked different hours during the week, you have to calculate the regular pay rate individually.  

  1. Employees with Two or More Rates

If you pay employees different rates, the law requires you to use the “weighted average” as the regular rate of pay. In other words, you should divide the employee’s total earnings (including overtime) in a workweek by total work hours (including overtime). 

For example, if an employee works 34 hours at $15.50 (minimum hourly wage in California 2023) an hour and 11 hours the same week at $10, here’s how you calculate their regular rate of pay:

First, compute their total workweek earnings (34*$15.50) + (11*10) = $637. Second, divide the total earnings by (34+10) = 44. Their regular pay rate is $14.48; you can use that to compute their overtime pay. 

Things to Consider When Calculating Overtime and Regular Rate of Pay

In addition to the things we mentioned above, you have to consider certain payments and bonuses when calculating the regular rate of pay. 

For example, you should include an employee nondiscretionary bonus when computing the regular rate of pay if that bonus is:

  • Compensation for proficiency, production, or hours worked
  • An incentive to the employee to stick by your company

On the other hand, exclude certain payments when determining the regular rate of pay. These payments include, but aren’t limited to: 

  • Gift for special occasions
  • Payment you make for occasional periods when employees are off-duty
  • Expense reimbursement
  • Premium pay for holiday, Saturday or Sunday work
  • Discretionary bonuses

Most importantly, an employee’s regular pay rate cannot be less than their minimum wage, regardless of how you pay them, the nature of work, or working conditions.  

Overtime Wage Payments Obligations 

Once you compute employee overtime pay, you must make the payment on time. The law requires that you pay overtime wages on or before the payday for an employee’s regular payroll period. 

If you pay employees weekly, biweekly, or semimonthly, there’s a slight rule change. You can still pay employees overtime wages on the next payday. However, if that’s not tenable, you can delay their overtime wage, but not for more than seven days following the end of their payroll period. 

Penalties For Late Overtime Wage Payment

If you don’t pay overtime wages within the legal timeframe, the payment is late. According to the California late payment provisions, an initial late wage payment attracts $100 for each violation per employee. If you have 100 employees, the penalty will be ($100 *100) = $10,000. 

The penalty is double ($200) for each subsequent violation or intentional or willful violation. Besides the $200, you’ll be required to pay each employee an additional 25% of the unpaid wages.

Can Employees Waive Overtime Pay?

No, employees cannot waive their overtime compensation. Even if you have such an agreement or one that requires employees to work for lesser wages, it doesn’t prevent them from filing a wage claim with the labor commissioner or Division of Labor Standards Enforcement (DLSE).  

Timeero: Automatic California Overtime Calculator

With the complexity of the California Overtime Law, many things can go wrong. This could result in authorities slapping you with thousands of dollars in penalties for mistakes you could have avoided.

One of the best ways to stay out of trouble is to use reliable time-tracking software, such as Timeero. You can read our Timeero review for in-depth details, but here’s a sneak peek at how Timeero helps California business owners stay compliant:

Custom California Features

timeero daily sign form
Timeero's Daily Sign-Off Form enables compliance with California Meal and Rest Break laws

First and foremost, we’ve built custom features for businesses in California, such as the California Overtime Rule and California break tracker (which helps you track meal and rest breaks), which we covered in detail in our California break law guide. 

Timeero’s California overtime tracker
Timeero facilitates a hands-off California overtime tracking approach.

Timeero gives you two options when configuring your overtime rules: create custom rules or use the California overtime rule. It automatically applies the California overtime hour laws when you choose the latter. 

It tracks employee hours and records any hours over 8 hours in a workday or 40 hours in a workweek as overtime. In this case, the app computes employee overtime pay at the rate of one and a half times the base pay.

Even better, Timeero is configured to track employee overtime and double overtime in California automatically. It records any hours over 12 hours in a work day and work over 8 hours on the seventh consecutive day of the workweek as double overtime. In this case, it calculates employee overtime pay at the rate of two times the employee’s base pay. 

Works For All Types of Employees

Timeero’s California overtime feature isn’t for employees on hourly wage only. If you have salaried employees, pay others by commission or piece, or have employees with more than one rate, fret not. You only need to compute their regular pay rate using one of the formulas mentioned above.

Once you do that, head over to that employee and click the pencil icon. Click “additional settings” and add their regular rate of pay. Click “update user,” and that’s it. Timeero will track their overtime and calculate the payment without lifting your finger. 

timeero user pay rate
Timeero allows you to add individual employee rates of pay or by group. 

Timely Shift Reminders

Under California Labor Law, employers are required to track the hours worked by their teams. This includes the start of the shift, the start and stop of the meal breaks, and the end of the shift. These time records are then used to determine the hours worked on each workday and workweek.

If employees fail or forget to clock in or out, their time entries could be erroneous. To minimize the chances of inaccurate timecards, Timeero sends employees timely punch reminders. It notifies employees when a shift is about to start so they can clock in immediately and accurately track time. 

Overtime Notifications

California Employment Law requires you to compensate employees for overtime whether you authorize it or not. Timeero doesn’t only let you track authorized overtime; we’ve devised a tool to help you prevent unauthorized overtime.


You only need to toggle the “notify when a user goes overtime” button. Timeero will instantly notify you when an employee triggers the overtime threshold. If you didn’t authorize the overtime, you can contact the employee and stop them from working. 

timeero overtime notification
Timeero sends an email or mobile notification when the employee reaches the overtime threshold.

California Overtime Law: Key Takeaways

Understanding labor state and federal law is fundamental if you’re an employer. The same applies to the California overtime law. It’s crucial how you implement overtime, as you want to use it to reward your employees and avoid any legal issues. For example, misclassifying your employees as exempt and failing to pay them overtime can negatively affect the employer.

Remember that violations of California overtime law come in many shapes and forms. For example, calculating overtime wage rates inaccurately and misclassifying your employees as exempt are possible avenues for violations. Not to mention, if you don’t track employee time accurately, you can’t compensate employees fairly, which is a breach, too.

As the saying goes - it’s better to be safe than sorry. Use Timeero’s California Overtime feature to compensate employees fairly to boost their morale. It also helps you avoid costly penalties, including interest earned by the unpaid overtime. Start a 14-day free trial and take the California Overtime feature for a whirl, risk-free. 

California Overtime Law FAQs

What Is the Overtime Law in California 2023?

The California overtime law states that non-exempt employees are entitled to 1.5 times their regular pay for work over 8 hours a day or 40 hours a workweek. In addition, employees are entitled to double time for work over 12 hours in a workday. 

Is Overtime After 8 Hours or 40 Hours in California?

Overtime in the state of California is over 8 hours in a workday or over 40 hours in a workweek.

How Many Hours in a Day Can You Work in California?

While the State of California stipulates when overtime starts, it doesn’t cap the number of hours an employee can legally work in a day. 

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