• Posted By Sirmabekian
  • 2022

Yes, it is true that CA overtime laws require employers to pay extra to employees that work beyond the standard eight-hour workday. Whether this overtime is authorized or unauthorized, if the employer is aware of it, they must pay it.

What Happens if the Employer is Unaware?

In the event that an employer is unaware that their employee has worked beyond the standard eight-hour workday, they won’t have to pay them. The Labor Commissioner of California stated that employees may not intentionally stop their employer from knowing they worked unauthorized overtime, and then return later to make claims regarding recovery. In other words, employers must be given an opportunity to follow the law.

For instance, let’s say that a worker employed in the State of California works a normal eight-hour shift, then clocks out, goes home, and does extra labor for their employer, like processing paperwork. If the employer is unaware that this work was performed, they will not be required to compensate them for it. But if their employer becomes aware of the extra labor, they would then be required to render overtime.

In a situation such as the one above, the employer should have previously implemented a policy that specifically reveals that overtime always has to be authorized. Any employee that violates this policy would be disciplined. This isn’t against the law, and would actually protect the employer. The reason this issue should be taken seriously by companies of all sizes is that if an employee works unauthorized overtime and their employer knows it and doesn’t pay, this could result in a class action or individual litigation regarding overtime.

Why Is Unauthorized Overtime Problematic for Employers?

Unauthorized overtime hurts employers in two ways. Federal law mandates that employers must render 1.5 times the standard hourly wage whenever their employees work overtime. But since unauthorized overtime typically isn’t accounted for within the corporate budget, this places employers in a situation where they might be forced to compensate their employees for wages they lack the funds to distribute.

Secondly, if unauthorized overtime is allowed to get out of control, it conveys a message to workers that they may perform overtime at any moment they choose, without having to fear the consequences. This is why aside from instituting a specific policy that discourages unauthorized overtime, a lot of employers are also implementing attendance and time systems, so they know exactly how many hours their employees worked and win.

Employees that violate overtime policies must be disciplined to discourage the behavior. Examples of such actions include providing written warnings, then enacting unpaid suspensions and finally terminating them as a last resort. In fact, there are some instances where instant termination should be the preferred action. Remember that as an employer you’re liable to pay for unauthorized overtime, irrespective of why the employees did it. And your goal as an employer should always be to prevent legal liability. It isn’t enough to just draft a written policy regarding overtime, it must be rigorously enforced.

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