The employment contract specifies the number of hours an employee is required to work per pay period. Each company sets its own definition of a full-time employee. In California, there is no legal maximum or minimum number of hours that an employee must work to be defined as full-time. However, there are parameters that indicate that the average scheduled work week for full-time employees is between 35 and 40 hours.
California Labor Market
The California Labor Market Review is published monthly by the California Employment Development Department’s Labor Market Information Division. It defines full-time employment as 35 hours per week or more. In May 2011, the Review reported that average weekly hours in Californian manufacturing amounted to 41.3, with an average weekly overtime rate of 4.3 hours per week. In May 2011, 12.5 million Californians, 78.8 percent of the state's employed population, usually worked full-time.
Threshold for Overtime
The State of California Department of Industrial Relations requires employers to pay overtime after a non-exempt employee has worked eight hours per work day, unless an alternative work week schedule is formally agreed upon. Overtime must be paid if a non-exempt employee works more than 40 hours per work week. Employers may decide at what time of day a workday begins and on what day of the week a work week starts. These need not match the start of an employee's shift and may vary between employees, depending on the shifts worked.
Average Weekly Hours
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) tracks the average weekly hours worked in the United States on a month-by-month basis. BLS reports that the average weekly hours of employees on private non-farm payrolls in California in May 2011 amounted to 34.9 hours per week, up slightly from 34.6 hours on May 2010. This compares to 37 hour per week in Texas, the state with the highest average, and 33.1 hours in New Hampshire, the lowest. BLS measures total hours actually worked rather than scheduled hours. This figure is affected by factors such as labor turnover, unpaid absenteeism, part-time work, strikes and other fluctuations in work schedules.
Breaks and Lunch
In California, the Industrial Welfare Commission Wage Orders provide for paid rest periods for non-exempt employees. Rest periods should be taken in the middle of the day and should amount to 10 minutes for every four-hour period of scheduled work time. Employers can insist that employees take their breaks on work premises and can alter the scheduling of breaks in a limited number of occupations, including the provision of 24-hour care, sportsmen, performers and safety-critical operations.
Lynne MacDonald has experience in the fields of human resource management, training, organizational development and law. MacDonald received a law degree from the University of Dundee in 1990 and holds diplomas in personnel management and legal practice. She is a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Personnel & Development.