California law provides protections for workers’ wages and hours.
Under both Federal and California law, employers are required to pay minimum wage to all employees, as well as overtime pay for hours that exceed the normal 8 hours per day or 40 hours per week to non-exempt employees. Employers are also required to provide meal and rest breaks to these employees. California law also requires most employers to give employees up to 3 days of paid sick leave.
As of January 1, 2020, the minimum wage in California is $12.00 for employers with 25 or fewer employees, or $13.00 for employers with 26 or more employees. In addition, California's minimum wage is set to increase every year until 2023. Some cities and counties already have higher minimum wage. Agreements with employees to pay less than the minimum wage are not enforceable. If your employer fails to pay you the applicable state or local minimum wage for any reason, you have the option of suing your employer with the help of a California wage and hour lawyer. You could be entitled to the amount of wages owed to you in order to bring your compensation up to the minimum wage, plus interest, a civil penalty, designed to punish the employer, and additional "liquidated damages" equal to the amount of unpaid required minimum wages and interest if the employer can not show that the failure to pay you the minimum wage was a good-faith mistake.
Under California overtime law, non-exempt employees are entitled to overtime pay if they work:
- more than eight (8) hours in a single workday,
- more than forty (40) hours in a single workweek, or
- more than six (6) days in a single workweek.
California overtime law requires employers to pay time and a half for hours in excess of those listed above.
In addition, double-time overtime pay is required for hours worked:
- in excess of twelve (12) hours in a single workday, or
- in excess of eight (8) hours on the seventh day of a workweek.
Employers owe employees overtime pay for unauthorized overtime that the employer did not request or require--as long as the employer permitted the employee to perform the extra work. In a successful overtime lawsuit, you could collect the unpaid balance of the overtime compensation that your employer withheld from you, plus interest on that amount.
Under California law, non-exempt employees must receive a thirty (30) minute lunch or meal break if they work more than five (5) hours in a day. Employees who work more than ten (10) hours in a day are entitled to a second 30-minute meal break. Rest breaks under California labor law are required for non-exempt employees who work three and a half (3 1/2) or more hours in a day. Employees are entitled to ten (10) minutes of rest period for each four (4) hours, or a substantial fraction thereof, that they work in a day. Employers who do not allow employees to take their meal or rest breaks will owe the employees one hour's pay for each break that was denied to them.
California’s paid sick leave law allows employees to take sick leave for their own health condition or the health condition of a family member, including preventative treatment. Except for a few exceptions, employees who work at least 30 days in a year are eligible to receive paid sick leave. Employees can begin using accrued sick leave once they have worked for an employer for 90 days. Employees accrue one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked. Paid sick leave must carry over from year to year, but employers can place a cap on accrual.
Employers often attempt to avoid their obligations by mis-classifying non-exempt employees as exempt, or even wrongly classifying workers who should be granted these rights as independent contractors instead of employees. The rules for who is an employee versus and independent contractor, as well as which employees are non-exempt are complex, and are not determined by what the employer calls the worker. If you feel that your employer has mis-classified you as either non-exempt or as an independent contractor, and/or has failed to pay you minimum wage or overtime pay, or denied you meal or rest breaks, a qualified employment law attorney can help you navigate this complicated and ever-changing area, and help you potentially receive compensation for the benefits that you have been denied, including penalties against your employer for failing to pay you what you what you were due, when it was due. In most cases, reasonable attorney's fees and costs of litigation are also available so that it is easier for affected employees to obtain the assistance of a qualified attorney.
In addition it is unlawful for your employer to fire, discipline, or otherwise retaliate against you for complaining about or bringing a lawsuit over their failure to pay the minimum wage or overtime, or failure to give you meal or rest breaks. It is also unlawful for your employer to retaliate against you for using or attempting to use sick leave. If your employer has fired or otherwise retaliated against you for opposing its violation of wage and hour laws, you are likely to be entitled to additional compensation.
NOTE: None of the information on this page should be taken as legal advice for any specific situations, nor can it substitute for consulting with an attorney.