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Coast Employment Law
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Can Employees Waive Their Rights to Overtime Pay?

Regular time and Over time words on labels, document binders place on employee time sheets

California law guarantees workers certain protections. Among other things, all nonexempt workers aged 18 or older who work in the state are guaranteed overtime pay. Exemptions apply for certain administrative or professional fields, salespeople who work on commission, and certain other groups. Most hourly wage-earners, however, qualify for overtime protections. Under certain circumstances, employees have the option to “waive,” or give up, their rights to certain workplace protections. The situations in which employees have the option to waive these rights are intentionally limited to avoid employers essentially forcing employees to waive their rights. Where does overtime fall? Can non-exempt employees waive overtime pay? Read on for a discussion of overtime pay and waiver of rights in California employment law, and call a dedicated Orange County labor law attorney for trusted advice and representation.

All Nonexempt Employees Are Guaranteed Overtime

California law guarantees all nonexempt employees the right to a minimum wage as well as the right to overtime pay. Overtime kicks in when an employee works more than eight hours in a given workday or 40 hours in a given workweek. There are special exceptions for certain professions, such as police officers and hospital employees, as well as exemptions for salaried employees who meet certain requirements (executive, administrative, or professional jobs, as well as certain other categories). Non-exempt wage-earners, however, must be paid appropriate overtime.

Overtime pay in California is equal to one and a half times the worker’s normal hourly wage for hours worked over eight in a given workday or 40 in a given workweek. If a worker goes beyond 12 hours in a given workday, additional hours must be paid at double their hourly rate.

You Cannot Waive Your Overtime Pay

Both federal and state laws are extremely clear on the issue of overtime pay: Nonexempt employees have the right to overtime. The right is nonwaivable. That means that employers and employees cannot agree to waive the employee’s right to overtime in a contract or other agreement. If an employer tries to get an employee to sign an agreement waiving their right to overtime pay, that agreement is invalid, and it should be a red flag for the employee. Even if an employee agrees in writing to waive their overtime rights, the employee must still be given proper overtime pay.

Employees Can Choose Whether and When to Sue

Although employees cannot voluntarily (or involuntarily) sign away their right to overtime pay in a contract or other agreement, employees are free to choose what to do should they be improperly denied overtime pay. Employees who are subject to labor law violations, including insufficient overtime pay, have the option to pursue legal action in response to the labor law issue, or to let it slide.

It’s important for both employees and employers to understand that failing to request overtime pay does not amount to a waiver, nor does failing to bring up the issue with HR or outside agencies during the course of the employee’s employment. Employees who are unaware of their rights while employed, or who are too afraid to request overtime for fear of retaliation, can still pursue legal action after leaving the company. Certain statutes of limitations may, however, apply with regard to when an employee can file a lawsuit to claim unpaid back pay. Employees who have not been paid proper overtime should consult with an experienced labor law attorney to explore their options.

If you are an employee with overtime or other employee rights concerns in Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, Los Angeles, or San Diego counties, or a California employer dealing with employee rights allegations, wage & hour issues, employee contract disputes, or other employment law issues, contact a skilled and effective California employment law attorney at Coast Employment Law at 714-551-9930 for a free consultation.

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