The right to overtime is fundamental in California. Many people erroneously believe that only hourly employees are entitled to overtime. This is not true. The presumption for all employees, whether salaried or hourly employees, is that they are entitled to overtime. Labor Code section 510 guarantees every employee the right to overtime for hours worked in excess of eight per day or forty per week unless the employee falls into a special exemption from application of that right.
For hourly employees, the right to overtime, in all but a few circumstances (notably, certain highly paid computer professionals), hourly workers are entitled to overtime at the rate of 1.5 times their hourly rate for each hour of overtime worked. With salaried employees, the right to overtime is presumed to exist unless the employee falls within a specific exception. The three primary exceptions are known as the managerial, administrative, and professional exemptions. For each of these exceptions, the law imposes multi-step tests. In all cases, the law is construed strongly in favor of the employee. It is the employer’s burden to prove that a salaried employee is not entitled to overtime because he or she is exempt as an executive, administrative or professional person.
It is beyond the scope of this brief outline to describe in detail the exemptions. As a general rule, however, the less authority, independence and education you have, the more likely it is that you do not fall within an overtime exemption. Unlike federal law, California imposes a strict quantitative standard for determining the right to overtime. If an employee spends more than 51% of his her time engaged in activities which do not meet the test of exemption, then he or she is entitled to overtime. In all cases, a job description is irrelevant to the determination of overtime. What you do, not what your employer says you will do, determines your right to overtime. Ainley Law has a great deal of experience in this field and has had the good fortune to represent clients on the cutting edge of overtime issues. Overtime is an increasingly important issue in todayís workplace as companies attempt to leverage greater profits from a smaller workforce. As you may have noticed, publicly traded companies are reporting record profits, while the unemployment rate has increased. Healthy companies are laying off employees, and across the board, companies are trying to extract more labor from fewer workers. Inevitably, this has resulted in a dramatic increase in overtime violations. Many people are afraid to step forward and raise the issue for fear of losing their job. Any communication with our law firm, however, is in strictest confidence, and we encourage you to come forward if you believe that you may be entitled to overtime benefits and are not receiving them.
MEAL AND BREAK TIME VIOLATIONS
Any employee entitled to overtime benefits is also entitled to meal and break time. Labor Code section 512 requires that at least one thirty-minute meal break be given to every non-exempt employee every eight hours, and that a ten-minute break be given every four hours. Frequently, meal and break claims arise as class actions or as claims that are filed along with overtime claims and other violations of the Labor Code.