In many work environments, putting in overtime is purely voluntary. Most of the time, this system works well as it allows those in need of extra income to earn more money, while those who don’t want the extra work don’t feel unduly burdened. In turn, the employer benefits also as he or she has someone willing to do the necessary job.

However, some employers may demand that a worker puts in overtime to meet production quotas or for other urgent reasons. Under the nation’s employment laws, it is legal in many circumstances for employers to mandate overtime. However, they must still follow the law by paying the proper overtime rate and giving workers reasonable meal and rest breaks.

In California, employees may refuse to work overtime in situations like the ones below.

  • When the worker has already put in six consecutive days of work in the current week, he or she can refuse to work on the seventh day of that same week.
  • When the employee worked overtime totaling 72 hours or more in the previous week, he or she may refuse to work overtime in the current week without suffering consequences such as termination or other punitive actions.
  • When the overtime violates an established employment contract, the worker may refuse to work overtime without repercussions.
  • When working overtime poses a significant injury or health risk to the worker – such as using heavy machinery while tired, etc. – then he or she may refuse to work.

Losing one’s job is a fear many Californians share, but they also do not want to be worked to the point of physical and mental exhaustion. When in doubt about whether your employer’s overtime mandates are legal, please consider seeking legal guidance from a professional. You may find solutions with an employment law attorney that allow you to continue working without fear of negative consequences.