What are my rights regarding overtime?

I am an employee who gets paid $20 an hour for construction work. I work more than 40 hours a week and most of the days more than 8 hours a day. However, my employer never pays me overtime, and the times I’ve worked more than 12 hours, he doesn’t pay double time either. He basically says if I’m not satisfied with how much I’m getting paid, then I should leave and go work elsewhere. I like my job, I do not want to quit, nor do I want to insist on my rights if it causes my boss to become my enemy. At the same time I want to stand up for my rights and earn as much as I’m legally supposed to. What can I do to avoid conflict but also to get paid fairly?

Asked on June 4, 2016 under Employment Labor Law, California


M.D., Member, California and New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 4 years ago | Contributor

You are what is known as a "non-exempt" employee. This means that labor laws regarding the right to be paid overtime apply to you. If you are not being paid OT, then your employer is breaking the law. You can either file a wage claim with the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement (the Labor Commissioner's Office), or you can file a lawsuit in court against your employer in to recover the lost wages. Additionally, if your employer takes action against you for filing such a claim (e.g. suspension or termination), you may also have a claim based on "retaliation".

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 4 years ago | Contributor

You boss is not right: not only does the law require that overtime be paid, but it also prohibits an employer from retaliating against (e.g. firing) an employee for bringing a complaint to enforce his legal rights. Not only are you entitled to all the overtime you should have been paid over the last two years, but if fired improperly, you could be entitled to additional compensation. A good way to begin would be to speak to your state department of labor, which enforces the labor laws: they can give you an idea of what your claim might be worth and how protected you would be from retaliation.

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