Suppose your annual wages are set at $40,000/year. You regularly work for more than 8 hour per day. On some days you work 10 hours a day, and on others you worked as long as 13 hours a day. You then discover that you should be entitled to overtime. You can then go back as far as 3 ( in some cases 4) years back to recover for unpaid wages and overtime. Here is a simple way to calculate the unpaid overtime due to you in this type scenario:
First, you would divide $40,000.00 by 2000 ( average number of work hours per year based on 50 work weeks in a year), and you will find that you hourly wage is $20/hour.
You then count, at least approximately, how many hours you worked in excess of 8 hours per day but less than 12 hours per day over the above period of time. Let’s say that the total mount of such hours over the past 3 years is 100 (as it would be in a case where you worked 10 hours a day for 50 days, which means 2 overtime hours times fifty). Since you are entitled to 1.5 time of your hourly wages for every hour worked in excess of 8 hours per day but less than 12 hours, you then multiply those 100 hours by $20 by 1.5 for a total of $3,000.00 for unpaid overtime for those hours.
Let’s say that you also determine that you worked 13 hours a day for a total of fifty days during the relevant period of time. Since, you are entitled to a double of your hourly rate for every hour worked in excess of 12 hours a day, this means that you are entitled to 50 x $20/hour x 2 = $2,000.00 in unpaid overtime for that part of your claim.
This makes the total amount of your claim for unpaid overtime $5,000.00 plus possible interest and penalties when applies.
A claim for unpaid wages / overtime can be pursued through either court lawsuit or as a DLSE / Labor Commissioner claim. Having a record of your own hours, especially the contemporaneous type of record, i.e. the type of document where you would put in your hours every day, as you work, and not the one that’s based on your memory would be very helpful in proving your claim. However, even an approximation of the hours worked and not paid for can be very helpful in proving your claim, especially if the employer doesn’t have any records at all to contradict your testimony.