"I was hired by an employment agency as a journeyman electrician, paid by the hour," says Patrick. "They contracted me out to work at a solar plant and I was paid $20 per hour with time-and-a-half overtime. For the first few months I worked five days a week, 10-hour days. I was paid my regular wages for 40 hours and 10 hours overtime—that was fine with me. But two months later my hours were cut back, even though I worked 10 hours a day without overtime.
"The agency told me their budget wouldn't allow for the extra 10 hours overtime per week. I know that nobody here works eight-hour days and most people at the plant work 12-hour days—they get paid by subcontractors. It's just the way they conduct business, it's standard practice.
"I worked here for nine months. When I started, I asked my boss if that's the way it worked. He thought 10 hours a day was straight time, so I took his word for it. I talked to co-workers and they said that is the way it worked. But then I went online and discovered that is not the case.
"Or is it?
"It's very confusing because I read online that overtime is anything over eight hours per day and/or 40 hours per week. What's more, the solar plant was 42 miles from home, so I was driving up to one hour each way, depending on traffic.
"While I was working at the employment agency I didn't want to jeopardize my job, so I didn't call the labor board to ask—it would be awkward if they called my boss. Anyway, my project at the solar plant finished so I lost my job.
"If I am correct, I figure this company owes me thousands of dollars. I signed up for unemployment at the beginning of January and I'm still waiting. Apparently the employment agency told someone at the unemployment office something about me because I should have received a few checks by now. Instead, they have asked me to come into the unemployment office in a few days for an interview. Meanwhile, my bills are stacking up. I could really use that overtime money about now."
Unfortunately for Patrick, he probably won't be seeing any overtime money. But his employer should have discussed the 10-hour day with Patrick and should have asked him to agree on that policy.
READ MORE CALIFORNIA OVERTIME LEGAL NEWS
(An alternative workweek schedule means any regularly scheduled workweek requiring an employee to work more than eight hours in a 24-hour period.)
In other words, California overtime states that overtime must be paid to workers who work more than eight hours in a workday OR more than 40 hours in a workweek. An employer can propose, but not require, that employees work a four-day, 10-hour workweek.
An employment attorney could advise Patrick on whether his employer's alternative workweek is legal.