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Overtime Compensation in California

On Behalf of | Sep 11, 2015 | Wage And Hour Law |

California’s basic overtime provisions are expressed in section 510 of the state Labor Code. Section 510 mandates that employees who work more than eight hours in a single workday, more than 40 hours in a single workweek, or up to eight hours on the seventh consecutive day of a workweek be compensated for this additional time at a rate of one and one half times their ordinary wage. Section 510 additionally provides that those who work more than 12 hours in a workday, or more than eight hours on the seventh consecutive day of a workweek be compensated at a rate of twice their ordinary wage.


A number of exceptions to the general overtime rules exist, however. Employees who work according to alternate schedules as authorized by certain other Labor Code sections, or as stipulated by collective bargaining agreements are not entitled to overtime as provided in section 510. Additionally, certain types of employees are exempt from the overtime requirement.

Section 515 of the Labor Code authorizes California’s Industrial Welfare Commission (IWC) to establish exemptions from overtime for certain executive, professional, and administrative workers who regularly exercise discretion and independent judgment in performing their duties, and who earn monthly salaries that equal no less than twice the state minimum wage for full-time employment. The IWC has accordingly issued orders establishing standards for executive, professional, administrative, and other exemptions.

In order to qualify for an executive exemption under California law, an employee’s duties must involve management of the business at which he or she is employed, or a department thereof, the employee must supervise at least two other employees, and the employee must have the ability to hire or fire workers, or to significantly influence hiring and firing decisions.

The professional exemption covers employees who are licensed or certified by the state and engaged in the practice of one of a number of specifically enumerated professions (law, medicine, dentistry, optometry, architecture, engineering,  teaching, or accounting), or whose occupations are commonly recognized as learned or artistic professions. This exemption typically applies to workers whose vocations require advanced, specialized knowledge or artistic skill and creativity, and whose work is of such character that its results cannot be directly correlated to standardized increments of time.

Employees whose duties involve non-manual work that directly relates to management or general business operations, or whose duties involve administrative work within a school system may fall under the administrative exemption. This exemption often applies to those who assist executives, and who work under only general supervision.

An employee must be “primarily engaged” in work of the type associated with an exemption in order to qualify for that exemption. Under California law, this means that a worker must spend at least half of his or her work time performing duties that fall under the exemption. Employees whose primary duties do not resemble those associated with the executive, professional, or administrative exemptions, and who do not work according to alternative schedules as defined by law are likely entitled to overtime compensation under section 510 of the Labor Code. Workers who feel they are entitled to overtime and who have not received it should consider taking legal action against the employers who have not paid them the wages they are due.




Cal. Lab. Code § 510 (West 2015).


Cal. Lab. Code § 515 (West 2015).


41 Cal. Jur. 3d Labor § 109.


1-2 California Employment Law § 2.06.