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Who is entitled to overtime pay in California?

Gone are the days when factory workers are forced to work 10, 12 or more hours a day or risk losing their jobs. Most modern full-time jobs operate by the standard 40-hour work week, in which employees work eight hours a day, five days a week.

Beyond that is overtime. In California, employers must pay their workers who go beyond 40 hours in a workweek time and a half, or 150 percent of his or her regular rate of pay, for overtime hours. This is supposed to limit employers’ reliance on requiring people to work overtime, and also give workers a chance to earn extra money if they want it.

The law does create loopholes for employers by dividing employees into “nonexempt” and “exempt” status. Exempt workers are not covered by standard overtime laws. Examples include some professional drivers, cabs drivers, some airline employees and professional actors. In addition, there are exceptions which can result in nonexempt workers not being entitled to time-and-a-half, the California Department of Industrial Relations reports.

Unfortunately, even those workers who have the legal right to overtime pay do not always get what they have coming to them. Some employers claim that nonexempt workers are exempt, or that their workers are subject to an exception. Or they may simply fail to include overtime pay in employees’ paychecks.

At some point, workers may have no recourse other than to sue to get the income they earned. A successful lawsuit over wages may include the employer having to pay lawyer’s fees and court costs, and hopefully teach the employer to respect the law from then on.