As an hourly worker in California, you likely depend on your wages to help you cover all of your living expenses, from rent or a mortgage payment to groceries to feed yourself and your family. That's why it is so important that your employer complies with all employment and wage laws.
After all, your financial stability depends on your employer complying with those rules. Some companies will do just about anything to avoid incurring extra expenses. That can include overtime pay.
Many businesses, especially large corporations and service or retail businesses, have rules about overtime in their employee handbooks. However, the rules that the company has in place certainly do not supersede state or federal laws regarding the requirement to pay overtime wages.
Requiring approval is not an excuse for unpaid overtime
When an hourly worker works more than 40 hours in a single week or 12 hours in a single shift, their employer has a legal obligation to pay them at least 150% of their standard hourly wage. Most companies want to avoid overtime pay because of how much more costly it is than standard hourly rates.
They create policies that require management approval for any overtime hours worked. However, those same companies may then require that their employees work more than 40 hours or shifts longer than 12 hours. Then, they will simply adjust the employees' hours and refuse them pay for the hours over 40 or over 12 that the employee worked.
Companies may attempt to justify their illegal behavior by claiming that the employee violated a company policy by accruing overtime hours. Regardless of what the internal policy is on paying or approving overtime, once you have worked those hours, there is an obligation to pay you for them in accordance with the law.
Always keep a record of your time in and time out
Managers or even human resources professionals could very well decide to adjust your time clock records to remove their overtime obligations. Even if they don't do that, they could simply refuse to pay you for the extra hours.
Although it may seem tedious, keeping a detailed record of when you clock in and clock out for every shift can help if you have to hold your employer accountable for illegal practices. The more documentation you have regarding when you arrive to work and leave, the easier it will be for you to demonstrate an illegal and inappropriate policy regarding the payment of overtime wages.
You don't have to accept it when your employer engages in illegal practices regarding how they compensate you for the time you work. If your company has forced you to work overtime, whether they didn't pay you for it or made you clock out, you have rights under California law. Sitting down to talk with an attorney can help you figure out what your next step should be in the process of standing up for your rights as a worker.