Recognizing When You Are Owed Overtime Pay
You are entitled to be paid in full for any work that you do as an employee. This is especially true in cases where you are working long hours or more consecutive days than is typical. The state of California has regulations in place to guarantee you overtime rates for situations of high work volume, but some employers will resort to unlawful and sneaky practices to avoid paying.
In California, you generally must be paid “time and a half,” or 1.5 times your normal rate, when you work more than 8 hours in a single day, more than 40 hours in a single work week, or on the 7th consecutive day of a single work week. You must be paid double your usual rate if you work more than 12 hours in a single day or more than 8 hours on the 7th consecutive day worked.
Certain types of employees are exempt from these conditions, which we will discuss in more detail shortly. Bosses use a variety of techniques in an attempt to cheat workers from overtime wages they accrue. Below, we review 4 of the most common methods.
#1: Check Splitting
“Check splitting” refers to when employers attempt to posthumously split shifts you have worked into multiple, smaller shifts. This is done to create the appearance that no overtime occurred and, therefore, you are not owed any overtime pay.
For example, you might work a 10-hour shift. This means you would be entitled to 8 hours of regular pay and 2 hours of overtime pay. However, you later find that your boss adjusted your time sheet to suggest you actually worked 2 separate shifts: one for 6 hours, and another for 4 hours, meaning you are owed no overtime compensation. No matter the explanation they attempt to give you, this practice is illegal, and if you worked the hours continuously, you are entitled to overtime pay.
#2: Removal of Hours in Time Sheets
A similar tactic involves employers outright removing genuine overtime hours from your timesheet with or without your knowledge. Sometimes employers will attempt to adjust your timesheet just before a pay period ends, meaning you may not even learn your hours were changed without your knowledge until a lower-than-expected deposit hits your account.
In these situations, employers tend to hope you will either not notice the lack of overtime pay (or even know you were entitled to it) or be unwilling to challenge them. No matter their justification, the practice of adjusting a time sheet to reflect hours fewer than what an employee actually worked is patently unlawful. Any adjustment of your time sheet records should be discussed with you beforehand, but note that an employer can only legally adjust for time sheet errors, not any removal of hours, even if you for some reason were to agree to the change.
As we mentioned above, California allows exemptions to overtime compensation in certain occupational categories. Contracted workers, for example, will likely have terms defining overtime enshrined in their agreement with an employer.
Occupations where overtime does not typically apply include:
- Agricultural workers
- Airline employees
- Ambulance drivers
- Camp counselors
- Personal assistants
- Taxi drivers
In addition, several broader types of employee classifications are also exempt from overtime restrictions under certain conditions, including:
- Administrative positions
- Outside salespersons
If you belong to one of the above categorizations or work one of the named industries, you probably do not qualify for overtime pay. Some employers, however, will deliberately attempt to misclassify workers in an “exempt” category in order to avoid paying overtime.
For example, say you work in a manufacturing plant and typically work long shifts in excess of 8 hours. You should be entitled to time and a half overtime pay for every hour worked past 8 hours, yet you have not been receiving this compensation. Upon investigation, you learn your employer has classified you as an “administrative” employee despite your job having few administrative duties. In this case, your employer is unlawfully misclassifying your employment as a means to avoid paying overtime.
California also mandates that not just any worker can be considered exempt from overtime rules, even if they are an administrative employee, an executive, or a manager. As of January 1, 2020, exempt California employees must make a minimum of $49,920 annually for companies with fewer than 26 employees or $54,080 for companies with 26 employees or more. If they make less than these amounts, they are entitled to overtime pay regardless of their classification.
Your boss may also attempt to circumvent these rules by having you sign an employment agreement identifying you as “exempt” during your hiring process. Signing an agreement claiming you are exempt still does not make you exempt or entitle your boss to break the law.
#4: Intimidation and Off-the-Clock Work
Sometimes employers will be extremely blatant about their intention to rob you of overtime pay. They will literally ask you to lie on your time sheet, or explain that you will not be getting overtime compensation regardless of how many hours you are required to work. This practice is unfortunately common and is referred to as “off-the-clock work.”
Though it is widespread in many industries, off-the-clock work is illegal if you would otherwise be entitled to overtime pay. Bosses will often attempt to convince you that it is an understood fact of life and that you should simply accept the reality that it will happen. While your employer can compel you to work overtime in many situations, they are required to pay you overtime compensation.
Do not believe whatever excuse your boss invents to justify off-the-clock work. They may claim they do not have the budget to afford overtime, that everyone in a workplace does it without complaint, or that if timely work does not get done, the company will go under. Threatening your employment due to a refusal to conduct off-the-clock work, directly or tacitly, is also unlawful.
If You Are Owed Overtime Pay, We Can Help
Our team at K2 Employment Law Group is dedicated to helping California employees exercise their rights. We have a proud history of successfully helping workers in their unpaid overtime cases. If you believe your employer is refusing to pay you overtime compensation you are owed, you may be entitled to back pay and other monetary damages. Our employment attorneys can assess your situation, determine if you have a case, and fight for the money you earned.
Schedule a free case evaluation by dialing (800) 590-7674 or contact us online to see how we can help you recover owed overtime wages.