The Federal Labor Standards Act (FLSA for short) and California overtime law both set forth the law for overtime compensation. California, however provides maximum protection and requires that employers comply with the overtime requirements that are most protective under both the FLSA and California overtime law. The California Supreme Court in Gentry v. Superior Court has stated that overtime laws “serve the important public policy goal of protecting employees in relatively weak bargaining positions against the evil of ‘overwork.” In fact, California overtime law by virtue of Labor Code 1194, has made it such that agreements provided by employers waiving overtime, even when voluntarily signed by an employee are unenforceable.
The One Major Similarity Between FLSA & California Overtime Law
Both federal and state statutes provide an overlap on the definition of overtime. Both 29 USC § 207(a)(1) and Labor Code § 510(a) provide that employers must pay an employee one and a half times his/her “regular rate” for hours worked in excess of 40 hours a week.
Differences: California Overtime Law Provides More Opportunities to Earn Overtime
California labor law, meanwhile, provides a broader definition of overtime which is really a good thing because it means that workers will have a greater opportunity to make more money. Four additional ways of earning overtime are provide under state law. (1) In addition to the rule above, pursuant to Labor Code § 510(a employees must pay one and a half times an employee’s regular rate if he/she works more than 8 hours in a day. (2) Even more lucrative, employers must provide double the regular rate for work performed in excess of 12 hours per day. (3) Workers must be paid overtime at a rate of one and a half times their regular rate of pay for the first eight hours worked on the seventh consecutive day of a workweek. (4) Employees must be paid double their regular rate of pay for all hours worked in excess of eight hours on the seventh consecutive day of a workweek. These additional protections are a welcomed difference from the FLSA which states that employees are due overtime pay when they work more than 40 hours a week regardless of how many hours they worked during a particular day.
Remedies also differ between the FLSA and California overtime law. For example, under 29 USC § 216(b)of the FLSA, an employee who brings an overtime civil lawsuit and provides proper proof, can recover backpay, attorney fees, injunctive relief, and an equal amount of backpay as liquidated damages (double damages). These liquidated damages must be awarded unless the employer proves that it had been acting in good faith and had reasonable belief that its conduct in denying overtime did not violate the FLSA. In such a situation, the court may award a lesser amount in liquidated damages.
Despite the fact that California overtime law provides a broader definition of overtime and additional protections, it does not provide liquidated damages. Instead California overtime law under labor code Lab.C. § 1194] in a civil action provides backpay, interest, attorney fees and costs of suit. Potential litigants should therefore calculate damages pursuant to the FLSA and California overtime law prior to make a decision on which they will proceed under in court.