California Wage & Hour Employment Law Information

By .   Updated March 27, 2017

California Minimum Wage

Most workers in California—with very few exceptions—must be paid at least the minimum wage in California. As of July 1, 2014, the California minimum wage is $9.00 per hour. As of January 1, 2016, the minimum wage will be $10.00 per hour. Employees cannot agree to be paid less than the minimum wage.

Employees who work in restaurants or other industries that typically receive tips must still be paid the minimum wage without factoring in the tips. Employers cannot use tips as a credit towards the minimum wage.

California Tips and Tip Pooling

In California, employers cannot use tips as credit towards an employee's minimum wage. Employers must pay minimum wage without factoring in the amount made from tips. They also cannot take wage deductions or credit card processing fees from tips.

Employers are prohibited from sharing or keeping any portion of a tip left for an employee by a customer. Any tip that is left behind is the property of the employee or employees they were left for. This allows employers to enforce tip pooling with other employees—such as busboys—but does not allow managers, owners or supervisors to share in that tip pool.

California Overtime

Under California labor law, nonexempt employees cannot be employed for more than eight hours in a workday or 40 hours in a workweek without receiving time-and-a-half for those extra hours worked. Employees who work more than 12 hours in a workday or more than eight hours on the seventh consecutive day of work must be paid double their regular rate of pay.

Overtime wages apply to employees who are paid hourly, salary or on commission. Employers must also pay unauthorized overtime, even if the employer was not aware that overtime was being worked. Employees cannot waive their right to overtime compensation.

Exceptions to the overtime rule include administrative and executive employees, outside sales people, certain drivers and certain employees in computer software.

California Overtime Misclassification

Some employers attempt to avoid paying their employees overtime by misclassifying them as exempt. Overtime exemption is based on the employee's duties and not on the job title. Simply giving a person an administrative title does not mean the employee is exempt from overtime—rather, the employee must have discretion and authority in his or her role and must meet certain tests to be exempt from overtime pay.

California Meal and Rest Breaks

California employees must not work for more than five hours in a shift without having a meal period of not less than 30 minutes. The exception is that if the total work period in the day is six hours or less, the employer and employee can consent to waiving the break. If the employee works more than 10 hours per day, a second meal period of at least 30 minutes is required. In this case, if the shift is 12 hours or less, the second meal period can be waived by mutual consent of the employer and employee—but not if the first meal period has been waived.

Employees must have a 30-minute, uninterrupted unpaid break. If the employee is required to perform any work during this period or if the employer requires the employee to remain onsite during the break—even if the break is free from work—the employee must be paid for this time.

California Independent Contractors

Under California law there is no set definition of an "independent contractor." Each situation is different and based on the particular circumstances of the worker and the company hiring the contractor. Some employers improperly classify their employees as independent contractors to avoid payroll taxes, minimum wage and overtime laws, and other employment laws. Among the factors to be considered in determining an independent contractor's status are whether the work is part of the alleged employer's regular business; whether the service given requires specialized skills, the degree of permanence of the working relationship and whether the contractor is supervised.

California's wage and hour laws, anti-discrimination and retaliation laws protect employees but they do not protect independent contractors.

California Donning and Doffing

Some industries and companies require employees to wear protective gear to prevent the risk of injury or illness on the job. Putting on and taking off this gear can be time-consuming for employees, who are required not only to dress and undress at the start of shifts, but also for all breaks. More and more lawsuits are being filed alleging employees should be paid for the time spent putting on and taking off protective gear.

Similarly, employees may be required to carry out tasks prior to starting their shift or after ending it. This can include cleaning work equipment, logging into computer systems, or undergoing security checks. Frequently, this is done on employee time and is not paid by the employer. Lawsuits are being filed against companies that engage in these practices, alleging the companies benefit from this time and should pay for it.

California Wage Theft Protection Act

California's Wage Theft Protection Act of 2011 (Assembly Bill 469) came into effect January 1, 2012. The act requires employers to provide all employees with written notice of information at the time the employees are hired. Information given to the employee includes the rate of pay and how pay is determined, any allowances, regular paydays, employer's name, physical address of main office or principal place of business, employer's telephone number, contact information of the worker compensation insurance carrier and other information as deemed necessary by the Labor Commissioner.

California Prevailing Wages

California prevailing wage rates are used for public works contracts to ensure wages on public works remain fair and balanced across the industry—preventing employers from lowering workers' wages to obtain a contract more cheaply. The prevailing wage rate requires all bidders on public works contracts to use the same wage rate. That prevailing wage rate is the basic hourly rate of pay for public works projects.

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