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Employment / Wage and Hour

The answers specified below apply to employment in the state of California.  We hope that you find the information useful, but it should not be used in place of consultation with a qualified employment attorney.  Should you have questions, please contact an attorney.

  1. Am I entitled to overtime?  Employees in the state of California are entitled to receive overtime after working in excess of eight (8) hours per day or forty (40) hours per week, unless they are exempt from overtime.  The most common exemptions from overtime are executives, high level administrative employees and professional employees licensed by the State of California such as doctors, lawyers, architects and engineers.  If you have questions regarding overtime pay, you may wish to contact an attorney experienced in wage hour matters or you may contact the California Division of Labor Standards Enforcement (known as the Labor Commissioner) who will assist you.
  2. How is overtime calculated?  Overtime is calculated after 8 hours in a day, or 40 hours in a week.  Therefore, if an employee eligible to receive overtime pay works 10 hours on Monday, and 6 hours on Tuesday, and 8 hours each for Wednesday through Friday, that employee may be entitled to 2 hours of overtime, even though the employee only worked 40 hours for the week.
  3. For how far back can I recover unpaid wages or overtime?  Generally, California law allows recovery of unpaid wages or overtime for three (3) years before the date of the filing of a lawsuit or Labor Commission claim.  Some claims may go back four (4) years.  If the claim is based on an oral agreement, claims may be limited  to two years, and if based on a written contract, claims may go back four years.
  4. Am I covered under California or federal law?  The federal Fair Labor Standards Act ("FLSA") generally governs overtime compensation for employees throughout the U.S. But, individual states, like California, have also established their own laws requiring overtime compensation. Employees in California are most often covered under both laws, and are entitled to the protection of whichever law is more favorable to the employee.  You should always consult with an employment attorney or the Labor Commissioner to determine if your claims  have merit under either law.
  5. What if I cannot afford an attorney to recover unpaid wages or overtime?  Both the California Labor Code and the FLSA require an employer to pay attorneys fees to an employee who prevails in a claim for wages.  Therefore many attorneys will take such cases on a contingency basis (a percentage of any recovery, and no fees if there is no recovery.)  The California Division of Labor Standards Enforcement (known as the Labor Commissioner) will assist you at no charge.