For non-exempt workers, overtime pay can add a significant amount of money to a weekly paycheck. At time-and-a-half, many employees jump at the opportunity to work extra and make a little more. But what happens if that overtime is unapproved or unauthorized? Can an employer refuse to pay it?
In California, state law requires that non-exempt workers who work more than 8 hours in a day or 40 hours in a week must receive overtime pay at a rate of 1.5 times their base pay. If an employee works more than 12 hours in a day, the employer is required to pay him or her double the regular hourly rate for those hours.
This law makes overtime expensive for employers. As a result, many employers require employees to have their overtime hours approved before they start any extra shifts. Though an employer may require approval, that employer still has a legal obligation to pay that employee for any unapproved overtime.
California law requires that employees are compensated for any hours that they “are suffered or permitted to work, whether or not required to do so.” This means that the employer will be responsible for paying wages if the employer knew or should have known that the employee was working overtime. For instance, if an employee stays late to finish up a project and the employer knows about it, the employer could be liable for overtime pay even if the employee did not receive permission to work overtime.
In essence, employers have a duty to stop any work that the company does not want performed. An employer or company cannot receive the benefit of an employee’s work but not compensate that employee for his or her time—even if that time was never requested.
The only exception to this rule is if an employer had no way of knowing that an employee was working overtime. If a worker collects several hours of overtime without his or her employer’s knowledge or consent, the employer must be given an opportunity to follow the law and pay the overtime. A worker cannot file a lawsuit over unpaid overtime if the employer never knew that overtime pay was merited.
While California requires employers to pay overtime to non-exempt workers, there is nothing in the law that prohibits an employer from disciplining or terminating an employee who takes unapproved overtime. Employees who continually skirt an employer’s rules about overtime may find that they are no longer working any hours at all. Contact Labor Law Office today to speak with an experienced wage law attorney in Sacramento.
Sacramento, CA 95821