Request A Free Consultation
Sunset on a pier in Orange County

Winning Your Claim for Unpaid Overtime Wages: Six Tips

December 9, 2018 Legal Team

California’s overtime law requires employers to pay those employees who are eligible twice their rate of pay when they have worked more than 12 hours in one workday or more than eight hours on their seventh consecutive day of work. Employees who qualify for overtime in California are paid 1.5 times their normal rate when they work more than eight hours in a workday and more than 40 hours in one workweek.

They also earn 1.5 times their normal wage for the first eight hours of their seventh consecutive day of work. In order to be eligible to get overtime pay, employees must be over the age of 18 and employed in a non-administrative or non-professional job. Employees who are paid hourly or daily rates or are salaried may also be able to qualify for overtime pay.

Overtime Laws in California

Overtime laws in California are not as simple as they may seem. Here are a few tips we hope you will find useful when it comes to winning your unpaid overtime claim:

Record the number of hours you worked. Your employer may not have kept up with the number of hours you actually worked. This could be because your employer inaccurately classified you as an “exempt” or “salaried” employee. In some cases, employers also misclassify employees as “independent contractors” in order to avoid paying them sick and vacation pay and medical benefits.

Do not let any of this stop you from maintaining an accurate record of the hours you’ve worked. If you can provide a detailed and accurate record of the hours you’ve worked, your claim will be significantly strengthened. You may keep track of your hours using a notebook, computer or whatever method works best for you.

Keep track of any work you did off the clock. It is becoming increasingly common for employers to require employers to work “off the clock.” This is just a nicer way of saying that they want you to do the work but won’t pay you for it. However, if you are doing this work on-site and doing something that benefits the employer, you should be getting paid for it. Some examples of “off the clock” work include but aren’t limited to any type of “prep work” such as filling out paperwork, putting on a specialized uniform or getting equipment or tools ready. It is important that you keep track of all the hours you work. Log the hours you spend doing prep work as well.

You are not bound by labels. One strategy commonly used by many employers to dodge paying overtime is to tell employees they are “exempt” from the Fair Labor Standards Act. This may be because they are paid a salary (as opposed to being paid hourly) or because they are independent contractors. In some cases, employers will misclassify an employee as a supervisor or manager even though they may be taking orders from other supervisors most of the time. Do not buy into these labels. If you believe that you are not being paid overtime, it is important that you contact an experienced California wage and hour lawyer to find out if you are entitled to overtime compensation.

Make an honest assessment of your job duties. Generally speaking, if you spend the vast majority of your time working under a supervisor, you don’t have much discretion when it comes to how and when you do your job. If you spend much of your time doing manual labor, you should be classified as “non-exempt,” which makes you eligible to receive overtime pay.

If you do not have supervisory duties, you should be getting paid by the hour and receive time-and-a-half compensation for all hours worked over 40 per week. If you believe your employer is improperly denying you overtime pay, an experienced employment lawyer can help you assess your job duties and determine your eligibility to receive overtime pay.

Be sure your voice is heard. Many employees are afraid to stand up to their employers because they worry that their employers might retaliate. Many are not aware that state and federal employment laws forbid employers from retaliating against their employees. But, this is ultimately a choice you have to make. When you blow the whistle on an employer who is violating the law, you may be helping others in your company as well.

It is very likely that others in your company are not getting paid the wages they are due either. In some cases, speaking up may help correct the problem. If you have suffered retaliation as a result of objecting to your employer’s unfair and unethical practices, contact an experienced Orange County wage and hour lawyer right away to obtain more information about your legal rights.

Do not post on social media or online. If you have a pending claim, do not post details about it on social media or anywhere online. It is a well-established fact that nothing is private online. Anything you say or post online can and most likely, will be used against you. It would be in your best interest to suspend all social media accounts, at least temporarily, until your wage claim is resolved. Please remember that anything you post, including photos and videos, could be used against you in these types of claims.

Contact an experienced lawyer as soon as possible. A majority of claims for unpaid overtime have a two-year statute of limitations. This means that you may not be able to file a claim if the statute of limitations expires. As time passes, you may lose your right to claim back wages. It is important that you act in a timely manner.

While you may be able to file an individual claim, employees in such cases may also be able to band together and file a class-action lawsuit against employers. This is particularly true in cases where employers have failed to pay overtime wages to a number of employees. Having an experienced Orange County employment lawyer on your side will help ensure that you avoid making mistakes that could jeopardize your claim, help you obtain fair compensation for your losses and hold your employer accountable for their potentially illegal actions.