Q. We recently downsized our department. As a result, the additional workload has shifted to the employees who still have jobs. Can we force those employees to work overtime?
A. Nothing in California or federal wage-and-hour laws prohibits you from requiring employees to work overtime.
California law requires only that employees be paid time-and-a-half their regular rates of pay for hours worked beyond eight hours in a day (double time beyond 12 hours) or 40 hours in a workweek. As a result, an employer may generally “force” employees to work overtime and may discharge an employee who refuses.
Nevertheless, it’s worth taking the time to carefully consider your actions before requiring overtime of employees who have not traditionally worked extra hours. Give employees sufficient advance notice so they can make personal arrangements, such as securing child care. It may pay to consider asking for volunteers before requiring overtime.
Note that employees who have disabilities that may be aggravated by working extra hours may ask to stick with regular working hours as a reasonable accommodation. Be prepared for legal claims if you insist on going forward with your plan.