Employees would think that the overtime and double time laws are pretty straight forward. They think they should be able to count up the number of hours that should be accounted for both based on the number of hours they work each week but, in fact, the calculations can get pretty tricky. There are even ways that employers can deliberately avoid paying double time (and even overtime) for certain types of employees and in certain situations.
Since employees don’t see it coming, they can get pretty down about their smaller than expected paychecks – especially after working such long hours.
Here’s how it can happen:
The California Law
In California, employees get time and a half for hours worked over 8 in a day or 40 in a week. They get double time for any time worked over 12 hours in one day and any time worked in excess of 8 hours on the 7th day. Pretty simple, right? Just add up the hours and figure the double time. Here’s how it can get complicated:
In California, an employee could work 80 hours in a week and not get double time: by working exactly 12 hours a day for 6 days, and then only 8 on the 7th day. This is not going to be a common situation because the employee would still be owed a lot of regular overtime, and that overtime would be expensive, but it is possible.
California law stipulates that employees get double time for any hours worked over 12 in a day. A day is 24 hours starting and ending at the same time every day of the week. A day can start at noon and end at noon the next day or it might start at midnight and end at midnight the next day. It’s all good as long as it’s consistent.
A workday is a consecutive 24-hour period beginning at the same time each calendar day, but it may begin at any time of day. The beginning of an employee’s workday need not coincide with the beginning of that employee’s shift, and an employer may establish different workdays for different shifts. However, once a workday is established it may be changed only if the change is intended to be permanent and the change is not designed to evade overtime obligations.” – Dir.Ca
The loophole here is in the choice of the time the “workday” starts and ends and when the employee works.
If a nurse’s normal schedule, for example, is from 6am to 8pm, her shift would be 14 hours. If the day begins at 12am, then all of that time is worked in one workday and she would be getting 2 hours of double time. But if instead her day starts at noon and ends at noon the next day, then 6 hours of her shift would be in one day and 8 hours in the next day. In this case she not only doesn’t get double time, but she doesn’t get any overtime either. Now, if she worked that schedule three days in a row, she would get the overtime and double time when her next shift began. But if she only worked a few, not consecutive days a week, she could manage to work those long 14 hours shifts with no double time pay.
If she didn’t know what her “workday” was, as defined by her employer, this could be really confusing to her and she might think she’s getting shorted her double time when, in fact, she’s not.