Employees often misunderstand their own rights when it comes to overtime pay. For instance, it is still a widely-held belief that salary workers are not entitled to overtime. As our firm has covered time and again, this is not true under California law. There are two crystal-clear standards that must be met before a person becomes exempt from overtime pay. To be frank, not many employees meet that standard, so few employees are excluded from overtime pay.
To be exempt from overtime pay, you must be:
- Able to manage (hire or fire) other employees
- Authorized to make independent business decisions
One concept that many employees may not understand is the idea of unauthorized overtime. When an employee inadvertently works longer than legally-set regular work hours (8 hours a day or 40 hours a week) without their employer's permission, it is labeled as unauthorized overtime. Many employees believe that they are responsible for their own excess work time, and thus are not entitled to overtime pay.
However, regardless of whether your employer asked you to work overtime or not, those hours must be paid at the higher overtime rate. It is illegal for your employer to withhold pay from you, even if they never requested or planned for overtime. They are still responsible for paying you for inadvertently working extra hours.
Your employer is only exempt from paying you overtime if you conceal hours from them. However, if that is the case, you are no longer entitled to an employment law claim. You must give your employer the opportunity to obey the law.
Now, if you let your employer know that you worked overtime without authorization, they may ask you to honor the regular work week in the future—that is legal and reasonable. However, it is illegal for them to punish you or fire you for requesting overtime wages—that is called retaliation. If you have been fired or punished for requesting overtime pay, you should contact our law firm immediately and ask to speak with our Los Angeles employment law attorney Alan Burton Newman.