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California Overtime Laws in 2021

California overtime law dictates when and how an employee must be paid wages for overtime work. Under this law, employers must pay all eligible employees working in the state of California additional pay for the work done in excess of the standard 8 hours a day or 40 hours a week.

California defines overtime to be based on both hours worked per day and week. The overtime period begins when an employee works over 8 hours per workday or over 40 hours per workweek. If an employee must work 7 days a week, they are entitled to overtime pay as of the 7th day. 

When an employee hits the overtime period, they are entitled to 1.5 times or even 2 times their regular pay.

Total Time WorkedOvertime Rate
> 8 hours in a workday1.5 x regular rate of pay
> 40 hours in a workweek1.5 x regular rate of pay
First 8 hours on the 7th consecutive day of work1.5 x regular rate of pay
> 12 hours in a workday2 x regular rate of pay
> 8 hours on the 7th consecutive day of work2 x regular rate of pay

Employers are required to comply with both federal and state overtime regulations. However, if there are varying differences between the two, the employer must follow the set of rules that gives the most benefits to the employees.

workday is defined to be 24 hours long and can start at any time during the day or night. The subsequent workday must then start at the same time.

Similarly, a workweek in California is 7 consecutive 24-hour periods or 168 consecutive hours. It can start on any day of the week as long as it is fixed and recurring.

Overtime eligibility

Employees in CA are required to meet the following qualifications to be eligible for overtime pay:

  • Must be 18 or older or 16 if they have been legally permitted to leave school for work.
  • The employee must have a non-executive position. Under California law, an executive position is defined as someone that directs the work of 2 or more employees, exercises discretion and judgment, and can hire or fire other employees. The state offers a detailed list of qualifications for roles that fall under this category here.
  • An employee can not be employed in a professional role. A professional role includes but is not limited to:
  • Licensed and engaged in one of the following: law, medicine, dentistry, optometry, architecture, engineering, teaching, or accounting.
  • Work requiring knowledge of an advanced type in a field of science or specialized intellectual instruction.
  • Work that is original and creative.
  • And more. For a full extensive list of what constitutes a professional role, check the list provided by the State of California here.


As of 2020, overtime pay in CA should be based on the regular rate of pay and not the hourly wage.  The regular rate of pay includes hourly pay and any other types of compensation they may receive like commissions, bonuses, and the value of meals and lodging.

If an employee receives two different rates of pay during a workweek, then the employer must use the average of the two to calculate overtime pay. 

Make sure your compensations are calculated correctly. Get your integrated and easy-to-scale payroll solutions from Payroll Systems. We offer a combination of software and human support for your business. Contact us to learn more about our highly scalable HR and payroll solutions.

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This article provides general information and shouldn’t be construed as legal or HR advice. Since employment laws may change over time and can vary by location and industry, please consult a lawyer or HR expert for advice specific to your business. You can also contact Payroll Systems to inquire about our HR support services.