Coyle Browne Law


Can I Refuse to Work Overtime?

In California, it’s important for employees to understand their rights regarding overtime work. Although some situations may legally require you to work overtime, there could be circumstances where refusal is allowed without risking disciplinary action and job safety. 

Understanding when and how you can refuse overtime – and what pay you’re entitled to if you can’t refuse it – ensures that your decision is informed and minimizes the potential risk of facing unjustified penalties or repercussions at your workplace.

California Employers Can Mandate Overtime Hours

In California, employers possess the authority to mandate overtime hours and can implement penalties for non-compliance. Specifically, employers have the autonomy to set work schedules and demand that their employees fulfill overtime requirements, provided that they comply with the stipulated overtime wage laws. This essentially means that employees are expected to accept and work additional hours as dictated by their employer, reinforcing the employer’s control over work schedules.

Overtime Compensation in California 

Overtime laws require employees to be paid at a rate of one and a half times their regular rate of pay for all hours worked beyond 8 hours up to and including 12 hours in any workday, and for the first 8 hours worked on the seventh consecutive day of work in a workweek.  

For instance, if an employee, who normally earns $20 per hour, works 10 hours on a Monday, their compensation for that day would include 8 hours at their regular rate of $20 per hour, amounting to $160. For the additional 2 hours, they would be entitled to overtime pay at a rate of one and a half times their regular rate, which would be $30 per hour for each overtime hour. 

Therefore, for the 2 overtime hours, the employee would earn a total of $60, making their total earnings for that day $220.

Employees must receive double their regular rate of pay for all hours worked beyond 12 hours in any workday and for all hours worked beyond 8 hours on the seventh consecutive day of work in a workweek. 

For example, an employee who earns $15 per hour works 14 hours on a Thursday. The first 8 hours are paid at the regular rate of $15 per hour, totaling $120. The next 4 hours are paid at 1.5 times the regular rate, which is $22.50 per hour, adding up to $90. The final 2 hours are compensated at double the regular rate, $30 per hour, resulting in $60. Altogether, the earnings for Thursday amount to $270.

This ensures that workers are adequately compensated for their time and efforts, reflecting the state’s commitment to protecting labor rights and setting a standard for fair labor practices nationwide. In the event you are not being paid for overtime, reach out to our unpaid overtime attorneys in San Diego today for a case consultation.

Employers Can Terminate an Employee For Refusing to Work Overtime

The legal framework supports an employer’s decision to terminate an employee who refuses to perform overtime work. Since the refusal to work overtime does not fall under protected categories such as race, religion, gender, or other federally and state-protected classifications, dismissing an employee for such a refusal is not considered discriminatory or retaliatory.

Scenarios Where Workers Are Allowed To Refuse Overtime

Although the employer does have the legal right in California to require overtime, there are specific situations in which employees have the right to refuse without facing consequences. Here are the scenarios:

Violation of Employment Contract: If requiring overtime would breach the terms of the employee’s contract (such as exceeding a maximum number of working hours per week specified in the contract), the employee is entitled to refuse overtime work.

Safety and Health Hazards: Employees can refuse overtime if they believe that working additional hours poses a safety or health risk. This is particularly relevant for roles involving the operation of heavy machinery or tasks requiring acute concentration.

Improper Overtime Compensation: An employee has the right to refuse overtime if they are not being compensated in accordance with California or federal law, ensuring that all workers are fairly paid for extended working hours.

Excessive Overtime: If an employee has already worked more than 72 hours during the work week, they may refuse to work overtime in the current week, protecting them from burnout and excessive workloads.

(a) Any work by an employee in excess of seventy-two (72) hours in any one workweek shall be on a voluntary basis. No employee shall be discharged or in any other manner discriminated against or refusing to work in excess of seventy-two (72) hours in any one workweek; and

Rest Days: Employees who have worked six consecutive days in a workweek can refuse to work on the seventh day, allowing them a day of rest as mandated by law.

Understanding these scenarios ensures both employees and employers in California can navigate overtime requirements effectively, maintaining a balance between operational needs and worker rights.

If you are an employee and believe your rights are being violated or you have questions about overtime laws in California, don’t hesitate to contact our employment law lawyers in San Diego to schedule a free consultation. 

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