In California, an hourly employee is entitled to one and a half times their regular rate of pay for all hours worked over 8 hours in a day or over 40 hours in a workweek. Hourly employees are entitled to twice their hourly pay for hours worked in excess of 12 hours per day.

Now, here comes the challenging part for employers, employees and even lawyers - when is an employee exempt from overtime?

The California Labor Code sets out several exemptions to overtime - they include employees working in the capacity of executive, administrative, professional, computer professional, outside salesperson and commissioned inside sales. Each of these special classifications has lengthy descriptions of the work that must be performed and other criteria that must be met before the exemption applies. For example, an employee usually has to perform the duties of the exempt classification for more than 50% of their time at work. So, if an employee is considered exempt because they are an executive, the employee must perform more than 50% of their time doing executive tasks such as supervising other workers, hiring and firing, decision making, etc.

There are even more complex rules concerning truck drivers and whether or not they are eligible for overtime. As of the writing of this piece, several trucking companies are defending against class action lawsuits on overtime, rest break and meal periods.

Reasonable minds may differ on whether an exemption applies. Mistakes in this arena are costly. An employer may need attorney assistance to ensure that its employees are classified correctly.

 Most California workers - from hourly to executive - are at-will employees. Do you have a full understanding of what it means to be at-will?

If you check your employee handbook or the documents you signed on your first day of employment, you will probably find that you are an at-will employee. Exceptions to at-will employment are usually outlined in employee contracts for a specific job duration or sometimes in union contracts.

If an employer makes statements like "you have a job here for life" or "we only terminate people for just cause," the employer has possibly made an exception to at-will employment. The employer may have made an "implied contract" which, if proven, is just as enforceable as a written contract.

If you are an at-will employee - you may resign from your employment at anytime for any reason with or without notice. Likewise, your employer may terminate you with or without notice for any reason - except for an illegal reason.

An illegal reason would include discrimination for age, race, gender, disability, etc., or some other type of wrongful termination including retaliation for whistleblowing.

Also, it is illegal and against public policy for an employer to terminate you for exercising a legal right such as going to jury duty, taking family leave or filing a workers' compensation claim.

At-will employment, on the surface, looks like a fairly straightforward concept; but like most employment and labor laws there are many complications and exceptions.


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California Workplace Law