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LawTalk, Attorney
Category: California Employment Law
Satisfied Customers: 37855
Experience:  I have 30 years of experience in the practice of law, including employment law and discrimination law.
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Can my employer demand that I work overtime? (I did not agree

Customer Question

Can my employer demand that I work overtime?
(I did not agree to mandatory overtime when I was hired 22 years ago.)
If I refuse overtime, can I be punished/disciplined/written up for it?

My employer seems to be looking (nitpicking) for other things to discipline/write me up for, but it's obvious I'm being targeted because I won't do overtime.
(I was told that, if I come in to work the next 4 Saturdays - normally my days off - all other "issues" with me will be dropped.)
Submitted: 5 years ago.
Category: California Employment Law
Expert:  LawTalk replied 5 years ago.
Good morning,

I'm sorry to hear of the situation.

In CA, employees are presumed to be "at will." At-will employees may be terminated for any reason—at any time, even a mistaken reason, they can have their hours or pay decreased, forced to work overtime, and they can suffer a cut in their benefits, so long as it's not illegal or unlawfully discriminatory. Generally, employees who work under an employment contract can only be terminated for reasons specified in the contract. In your state, an employment relationship is at-will unless there is a defined duration for the employment contract or if the contract permits termination by the employer only under specified circumstances.

If you refuse to work overtime, you may be disciplined, or even terminated, and the termination will be held to be for cause, thereby preventing you from even being eligible for unemployment benefits, I'm afraid.

It is important that you understand that your employer, under CA law, may demand that you work 7 days a week 12 hours a day and there is nothing that you have to say about the matter---at least from a legal standpoint. The only way you could legally refuse, and not have your job placed in jeopardy by so doing---would be if you had a written contract with the employer which holds that you are never required to work overtime.

Under the circumstances, it might be better to take the deal of working the next 4 Saturdays and having the remainder of the issues forgotten about---if you want to keep your position and not suffer any disciplinary action.

I wish you the best in 2012.

I understand that you may be disappointed by the Answer you received, as it was not particularly favorable to your situation, nor was it what I sensed you were hoping to hear. Had I been able to provide an Answer which might have given you a successful legal outcome, it would have been my pleasure to do so.

Thanks Again,