California Mandatory Overtime Laws Explained

December 25, 2023

We can all relate to going the extra mile when it comes to our jobs, but what happens when that additional mile becomes overtime? In California, one of the aspects of employment regulations is mandatory overtime.

If you are an employee or employer, this article is your go-to resource to understand, navigate, and comply with the intricacies of California mandatory overtime laws. From overtime rates to exemptions and common FAQs, we've got you covered!

The Basics of California Mandatory Overtime

In order to grasp the concept of California's mandatory overtime, it is important to delve into its fundamental aspects.

What is Mandatory Overtime?

Mandatory overtime in California refers to the extra compensation required by law for eligible employees who work in excess of standard hours. Any time worked more than the normal 40 hours in a workweek is officially considered overtime, as well as any time worked after 8 hours in one day.

Who Qualifies for California Mandatory Overtime?

Now that we've established what California mandatory overtime entails, let’s go into the specifics of who is a candidate for it.

Non-Exempt Status

To be eligible for overtime pay, an employee must fall under the non-exempt classification. This means that individuals classified as exempt, such as salaried managers or professionals, typically do not qualify for overtime compensation.

Hours Worked

Overtime becomes applicable when an employee works more than an 8 hour workday or exceeds 40 hours within a workweek. If you find yourself clocking in additional hours over these limits, you are entitled to overtime pay.

Double Overtime

When a California worker puts in more than 12 hours in a single workday, they are subject to double overtime. The employee's extra effort is acknowledged by this supplementary level of pay.

Seventh Consecutive Day

Overtime rates are also triggered when employees work on the seventh consecutive day of the workweek. This provision ensures that employees receive fair reimbursement for their consistent extra effort.

Understanding who qualifies for California mandatory overtime is essential for both employers and employees to guarantee that overtime compensation is provided in accordance with the applicable regulations and guidelines.

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California Mandatory Overtime Eligibility Factors

Determining eligibility for California mandatory overtime involves several key factors that employees and employers should be aware of. Among these are:

  • Meal and Rest Breaks: California law mandates breaks during work. If an employee works during these breaks, it may count as overtime.
  • Split Shifts: If an employee's work schedule involves two separate shifts with a significant gap in between, they qualify for overtime pay. 
  • Alternative Workweek Schedules: Some employees work under a voted upon alternative work schedule (AWS). An AWS changes the number of work hours for employees to qualify for overtime pay. Overtime does applies when employees work past the stated hours in the AWS.
  • Collective Bargaining Agreements: In unionized workplaces, overtime eligibility can be influenced by collective bargaining agreements, which may establish different criteria.
  • On-Call and Waiting Time: Time spent on-call or waiting for assignments is generally considered working time, potentially leading to overtime eligibility.
  • Emergency Situations: During emergencies or unforeseen circumstances, employees may work extra hours, usually counted as overtime.
  • Travel Time: Travel as part of job responsibilities may count as work hours, qualifying for overtime if it exceeds daily or weekly thresholds.
  • Agricultural and Domestic Workers: Specific overtime rules apply to these sectors, with unique eligibility conditions and rates.

Being informed about when overtime applies ensures that employees receive the compensation they deserve and that workplaces operate within the bounds of the law.

How to Calculate California Overtime Pay

When it comes to calculating California mandatory overtime pay, clarity and precision are key. Workers and companies benefit when everyone is on the same page. Here is a simple explanation of what needs to be done:

Regular Rate of Pay

To determine overtime pay, start by calculating the employee's regular rate of pay. This includes their standard hourly wage plus any additional compensation they receive, such as commissions or non-discretionary bonuses.

Tips do not get factored into determining an employee’s regular rate of pay during a pay period.

An example would be an employee who works at a spa and makes $22 per hour and receives 10% commission on any services that they perform on a client. They may receive tips from clients after performing services, but these are not factored into their regular pay rate.

Overtime Rate

After establishing the regular rate, the next step is to calculate the overtime rate. In California, this rate is typically 1.5 times the regular rate for any hours worked beyond 8 in a day or 40 in a week.

Double Time

In certain situations, employees are entitled to double time pay. This means they earn twice their regular rate of pay. Double time is generally applicable when an employee works more than 12 hours in a single day.

To simplify, if your regular hourly wage is $20, your overtime rate will be $30 per hour. Precise calculation of overtime pay is essential for both employees and employers to avoid conflicts and stay in compliance with the law.

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Exemptions from California Mandatory Overtime

Though mandatory overtime is the norm for many workers in California, it's important to be aware that some employees fall under exemptions that specify certain categories of workers who are not entitled to overtime pay.

Certain employees are considered exempt from California's mandatory overtime laws due to the nature of their work or compensation structure. These exemptions typically include:


Highly-skilled professionals, such as doctors, lawyers, and architects, often fall outside the scope of overtime eligibility due to the specialized nature of their work and the high level of expertise required.

Administrative, Executive, and Managerial Roles

Employees who are in administrative, executive, or managerial positions and are responsible for making significant decisions may be eligible for exemptions from overtime pay compensation. These individual must be paid at least double minimum wage and need to supervise at least 2 other employees.

Unionized Workers

Workers who are part of a union may have different overtime rules established through collective bargaining agreements. It's important to refer to the specific union contract for detailed information on overtime regulations.

Government Employees

Employees working in certain government roles or agencies may be subject to unique overtime rules that differ from the private sector. Consulting with the government employer or agency is essential to understand these specific regulations.

Alternative Workweek Schedules

Employees with alternative workweek arrangements, such as four 10-hour days per week, might have different eligibility criteria for overtime. This depends on the terms agreed upon in the alternative workweek schedule.

Rights and Responsibilities in California Mandatory Overtime

Having knowledge of one another's roles and duties is a must for employees and employers alike to navigate California's obligatory overtime laws successfully. Here's an overview highlighting these aspects:

Employee Rights

  • Eligibility for overtime pay when the established criteria are met.
  • Accurate calculation and timely provision of overtime wages.
  • Fair compensation for additional hours worked beyond standard schedules.
  • Being informed about the company's overtime policies and their eligibility.
  • The ability to request and review records of their overtime hours.
  • Protection against retaliation for asserting their rights to overtime.
  • A complaint or claim with authorities if overtime rights are violated.

Employer Responsibilities

  • Understanding and complying with California mandatory overtime laws.
  • Precisely tracking and recording employee work hours.
  • Ensuring correct payment of overtime.
  • Implementing proper procedures to fulfill obligations accurately.
  • Avoiding legal troubles and financial consequences through compliance.
  • Providing a work environment that respects and promotes rights and fair compensation.

By upholding these employee rights and employer responsibilities, both parties contribute to a harmonious and fair workplace in line with California's mandatory overtime regulations.

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Let Freeburg and Granieri Simplify Overtime Matters for You!

Tangled in the web of California overtime laws? Freeburg and Granieri can untangle the confusion for you! With years of experience as a prominent Pasadena-based law firm, we specialize in providing expert guidance on all employment-related concerns.

If you are an employee wondering about eligibility, our experienced legal team is at your service. We provide tailored solutions to your specific needs, offering guidance on overtime rates, exemptions, and more.

So, put your legal matters in capable hands – schedule a FREE consultation today, and gain the peace of mind that comes with having experienced advocates by your side!


As we've explored, protecting everyone's rights and responsibilities calls for comprehending the ins and outs of California's mandatory overtime law. It influences the dynamics between employees and employers, necessitating a clear understanding of eligibility, proper calculation, and exemptions.

Remember, knowledge is power, and in the world of employment rights, it's of utmost importance to stay informed.


Are there any penalties for employers who violate California overtime laws?

Yes, California labor laws have strict penalties for employers who fail to comply with overtime regulations. Employers found in violation may be subject to fines, penalties, and the requirement to provide back pay to affected employees.

Can employees waive their right to overtime pay in California?

No, California labor laws prohibit employees from voluntarily waiving their right to overtime pay. This protection ensures that employees are not coerced or pressured into giving up their entitlement to overtime compensation.

Can an employer force an employee to work mandatory overtime in California?

Employers in California have the authority to require employees to work mandatory overtime. However, it's essential to note that when an employer mandates overtime, they must adhere to labor laws, including providing overtime pay at the appropriate rate.


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