Recovering Unpaid Overtime in California

If your employer requires you to meet a minimum of 8 hours each day or 40 hours each week, you should be compensated for extra hours worked above the minimum expected working time with an overtime wage (OT). According to California wages & hour laws, if your employer hasn’t or has refused to settle your overtime dues, you can file a wage and hour.

Your OT should be 1.5 times your normal pay rate. Any OT work done on the last day or the next day, which is the seventh day, should be paid at 2 times the regular rate. Employers violating these guidelines set themselves up for lawsuits related to unpaid overtime in California. Even when your job does not normally involve overtime, and you have the authority to work over the minimum working hours, you can claim overtime pay.

Common Grounds for Citing OT Claims in California

California wage and hour laws require employees to get an OT wage for working beyond the minimum working hours. Otherwise, an employee can submit a complaint to the labor board or file a lawsuit. The common grounds for citing OT claims in California include:

  • Owing overtime wage for work done over 8 hours each day.
  • Owing OT payment for overtime (more than 40 hours a week).
  • Overtime for working over 6 days in a week. The seventh day attracts 2 times the regular hourly rate.
  • Owing OT related to working “off the clock.”
  • Working during lunch breaks without pay.
  • Misclassification of an employee as an “exempt employee.”
  • Misclassification of an employee as an “independent contractor.”

Should I file an OT Lawsuit for Small Amounts?

Most employees think it’s not worth filing an OT lawsuit when the amount is small. However, employees are entitled to interest and legal fees besides unpaid overtime compensation. Additionally, your employer may be liable for liquidated damages according to FLSA wage laws. Employers are supposed to follow federal laws in addition to FSLA wage laws when dealing with employee remuneration.

Although the owing OT may seem insignificant from your perspective, you should file a lawsuit to hold your employer accountable for violating labor laws. Your employer could also be exploiting other employees. If the owing OT wage involves multiple employees, you can gang up and file a class-action lawsuit for unpaid overtime wages.

Can I be fired for Filing an unpaid OT Lawsuit in California?

According to California labor laws, employers shouldn’t retaliate against employees exercising their constitutional rights. Besides, who would want to offer free services?

Suppose your employer acts retaliatory, such as terminating your services for citing a pay violation or filing the unpaid OT lawsuit. In that case, you can additionally file a wrongful termination lawsuit.

Eligibility for OT Wage for Exempt vs. Non-Exempt Employees

California labor laws require your employer to follow certain remuneration guidelines⁠, such as paying overtime, tracking working hours, providing work breaks, and much more. However, some jobs are exempted from those requirements, hence “exempt employees.” In layman terms, the terms of employment for exempt employees aren’t subjected to wage and hour laws, and they’re not eligible for overtime wage. The following are the tests to determine the classification of an employee:

  • An employee working in a management role is considered an exempt employee.
  • Employees working in a non-executive position supervise two or more employees, make independent decisions, or hire and fire employees– are considered exempt employees.
  • An employee whose monthly salary is 2 times or above the federal minimum wage for permanent employees is considered exempt. According to the Labor Code, Section 515(c), a permanent employee works 40 hours a week.
  • The duties of an employee meet the exemption test.

Although most jobs can be easily classified, others are hard to classify. They can be partially exempt; meaning, they’re only subject to certain labor laws and not others. However, sometimes employees are misclassified.

How to Handle Employee Misclassification

Misclassified employees have three possible courses of action at their disposal, including:

  1. Resolving the misclassification informally with employers.
  2. Filing a misclassification lawsuit.
  3. Filing a wage complaint with the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement (California)

The ideal approach for resolving a misclassification is dependent on the facts of each situation. However, it’s wise to consult a lawyer for the best outcome.

Qualities of a Competent Lawyer

Some key qualities of a competent lawyer include:

  • Great communication skills.
  • Widely experienced.
  • Should be having a high success rate for similar cases.
  • Should be having good reviews from past clients.
  • Good customer service.
  • Should be well-versed and knowledgeable in OT wage-related laws.

Recovering your OT dues can be tricky, especially when you have to sue your employer, but the chances of succeeding in such cases are high when you invest in a good legal team.


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