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When is a California employer required to pay overtime?

Los Angeles workers who are not exempt from receiving added pay for extra work are entitled to overtime. Federal and state rules dictate whether a worker is classified as exempt or nonexempt from overtime. An employer's failure to pay overtime can be challenged through the state Division of Labor Standards Enforcement, a legal action in civil court or both.

Many workers are unsure of their exemption status. Some assume things, like all salaried workers are ineligible for extra pay for extra work. In fact, employers are required to pay overtime to all nonexempt workers, including salaried employees.

Many workers also have a vague definition of what overtime is. In California, overtime equals regular pay plus 50 percent of regular pay, commonly known as "time and a half." In other words, regular earnings of $10 per hour would become $15 for every hour of overtime and, under some circumstances, the per-hour pay doubles.

The time and a half overtime rate includes work over eight hours and up to and including 12 hours in a single day. The extra rate is also paid during the initial eight hours of an employee's seventh consecutive workday. Overtime is double pay, when a single workday exceeds 12 hours or goes beyond eight hours on a seventh consecutive workday.

Overtime is based on a regular pay rate, weekly hours and days worked per week. California employers have the right to ask employees to work overtime and may discipline or terminate workers who refuse to comply. Workers must be paid overtime, even if they've waived the right to collect extra pay.

Employers sometimes cheat workers out of overtime, through misclassification or other manipulative behaviors. Employees short changed on wages can file grievances with the state Division of Labor Standards Enforcement. DLSE decisions may be appealed in civil courts. Speak with an attorney if you are uncertain whether a claim is valid.

Source: State of California, Department of Industrial Relations, "Overtime" accessed Jan. 27, 2015

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