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How California’s overtime laws differ from federal laws

Federal employment laws create basic standards for worker rights, including the right to a fair minimum wage, the right to overtime pay and the right to a safe work environment. Sadly, federal employment laws don’t receive frequent updates, which means that policies often wind up very outdated before federal laws change. 

California is one of a handful of states that takes a more aggressive and proactive approach to employment laws for modern purposes. For example, California has overtime requirements that are actually more restrictive than the basic federal overtime rules.

What are the differences between the federal rule and California state overtime rules?

1. Federal overtime law kicks in after 40 hours are worked in a single week

Under federal law, employers have to set a standard workweek and calculate the number of hours an employee works during each workweek. If the number exceeds 40 and the worker is an hourly employee or a non-exempt salaried worker, the company will have to pay them at least 150% of their standard wage for every hour worked over 40.

2. California’s law applies to long weeks and long shifts

Two of the biggest differences between federal overtime rules in California’s overtime rules involve what qualifies for overtime pay. If a worker is on a single shift for more than 8 hours, the worker should receive time-and-a-half, with double pay applying for hours over 12 in a single shift. 

The same is true for workers who don’t get a day off in a given week. When someone works seven consecutive days, the seventh day will be entirely overtime pay. Employers may try to claim a worker fits into some narrow exemptions in the law, however, when they actually deserve overtime pay. 

What can you do if you’ve been denied overtime pay you were rightfully due?

If you believe that your employer has violated your overtime right, you may have grounds to bring a wage claim against them, possibly in conjunction with others who have suffered the same underpayment.



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