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Understanding Overtime Pay During the Holidays


The holiday season is here, and that means non-exempt employees may be assigned to work more hours per week than usual. This is especially true for retail employees, who can expect to experience an uptick in the number of hours they work from about mid-November until late December. Many of these same employees may also be required to work on federal holidays such as Thanksgiving or Christmas.

If you are a non-exempt employee, it’s important to make sure you understand how overtime pay is supposed to work in California, whether it’s a holiday or not. In fact, from a legal perspective, holidays generally don’t have the impact on an employee’s compensation that most people assume it does – but more on that later. Keep reading more about this topic below and contact an employment law attorney if you believe you weren’t fairly compensated for your labor.

What Is Considered Overtime in California?

In California, overtime is usually any amount of time an employee spends at work beyond eight hours a workday or 40 hours in a workweek. A workday is any 24-hour period, and a workweek is any seven-day period.

Federal law only provides overtime protection for more than 40 hours per week, but California goes an extra step in covering more than eight hours a day. That said, some alternative work schedules such as 4/10 schedules – where an employee works 10 hours a day but only for four days a week – are exempt from overtime regulation.

How Much Is Overtime Paid in California?

Both state and federal regulations require that an employee is paid 1.5 times their regular rate of pay for each overtime hour.

If an employee works 10 hours a day, they should be paid for eight hours at their standard rate and paid for two hours at the overtime rate. For example, employees who earn minimum wage in California make $15 per hour. If an employee making minimum wage works overtime, they should be paid at least a rate of $22.50 for their overtime hours. In this example, the employee’s gross pay should be $165 for a 10-hour workday.

Some employees who qualify for overtime may be paid a salary, earn commissions, or make piecework earnings. When these factors apply, the employee’s average pay during a 40-hour workweek should be taken into account.

Who Can Earn Overtime Pay in California?

Workers must meet two classification requirements to earn overtime pay in California. First, they must be classified as employees (as opposed to independent contractors); second, they must be classified as non-exempt employees, who are not exempt from federal or state overtime protections.

Employers may be tempted to misclassify employees to avoid paying them overtime, among many of the other legal obligations they have in an employer-employee relationship.

Am I an Independent Contractor or an Employee?

You are an independent contractor if you are free from direction or control (as they relate to your work performance) from your hiring entity; your work is outside the usual scope of the hiring entity’s business; and you are customarily engaged in an independently established, trade, occupation or business correlating with the work for which you were hired to do.

If an employer treats you like an employee – that is, you feel like you don’t have much control over how you do your work – but classifies you as an independent contractor, you may be misclassified.

Am I a Non-Exempt Employee in California?

In California, an employee is not exempt from overtime pay protections if they make double the state’s minimum wage ($30 per hour as of 2022), strictly perform white-collar job duties (executive, administrative, and/or professional), and can exercise independent discretion and judgment at work.

Even if an employee thinks they meet all three of these requirements, they should contact an employment law attorney if they suspect they are misclassified.

When Do I Earn Double-Time Pay in California?

Non-exempt employees can earn double-time pay when they work more than 12 hours in a single workday or more than eight hours on their seventh consecutive workday.

When an employee qualifies for double-time, they earn their standard rate for the first eight hours of their workday; the overtime rate for an additional four hours; and double their standard rate for their 13th and any subsequent hours worked. If an employee works for six days in a row, they are entitled to double-time pay for all hours worked on the seventh consecutive day.

Does California Have Holiday Pay?

There is no state-mandated holiday pay in California. Whether it’s Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s Eve/Day, or another holiday, California law only requires that employers abide by the minimum wage and overtime requirements outlined in this article.

While employers may have policies that include time-and-a-half and double-time pay on holidays, they do so at their discretion. Such policies are often used as incentives to encourage employees to work on holidays and to boost their morale for working on a holiday.

When Should I Contact an Employment Lawyer for Help?

You should get in touch with an employment law attorney when you believe your employer is paying you less than you are owed. Unfortunately, many employers assume their employees aren’t well versed in overtime regulations and may be prone to avoid paying overtime compensation when it would otherwise be earned.

We at K2 Employment Law can evaluate your claim. During a free initial consultation, we’ll learn more about your situation and offer ways in which our team of experienced attorneys can help you move forward and work toward recovering what you’re owed.

If you suspect you’re owed unpaid overtime pay during the holidays, contact us online now.