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FAQ: California's Wage & Hour Laws


California is home to some of the country’s most intricate employment laws – many of which work in employees’ favor. These important laws include those that govern what people are paid and how they should be paid.

We’ve compiled some frequently asked questions about California’s wage and hour laws and paired each with a thorough answer. If you have a question about what you should be paid, when you start accruing overtime hours, or another such question, please read on. Then, feel free to reach out to our attorneys if you have a concern that something isn’t right.

What Is the Minimum Wage in California?

As of 2021, the minimum wage in California is $13 for employers with 25 or fewer employees and $14 for those with 26 or more employees. The minimum wage for all employees, regardless of an employer’s workforce, is scheduled to rise to $15 by 2023.

Do Tipped Employees Earn a Different Minimum Wage?

No. In California, tipped employees are entitled to the same minimum wage that other employees make for each hour worked. Some states allow employers to pay below the minimum wage for tipped employees, but this is not the case in California.

When Do I Start Earning Overtime & What Is the Overtime Rate?

In California, hourly employees earn overtime compensation when they work more than 40 hours per week or more than eight hours in a single day. Overtime compensation is set by the Fair Labor Standards Act at time-and-a-half, meaning that employees earn an additional 50 percent of their normal rate during overtime hours.

When an employee works 12 hours in a day, they must be compensated at double their standard rate. If an employee has worked for seven consecutive days, they are entitled to time-and-a-half pay for their first eight hours of work and double time for any additional hours.

Who Is Eligible for Overtime Compensation?

Only employees who are considered non-exempt from overtime pay are eligible to receive it. Such employees often work on an hourly basis, don’t hold a management position, and don’t make decisions that influence the management or direction of their companies. If such an employee is misclassified as exempt, they may be able to sue their employers for backpay of overtime wages earned while misclassified.

When Am I Supposed to Get My Rest & Meal Breaks?

Employees in California are entitled to a 10-minute rest break for every four hours worked. When an employee works for less than three-and-a-half hours, no break is required.

Employees must also take an unpaid meal break of 30 minutes after five hours on the clock, except when they work six or fewer hours that day and both the employer and employee agree to waive the meal break. When an employee works 10 or more hours, a second meal break is required unless the workday is no more than 12 hours long. If the first meal break was not waived, the second one can be.

When the nature of someone’s work prevents them from being relieved of all duties during a meal break, on-duty meal periods are permitted when both the employer and employee agree in writing.

What Should I Do If My Employer Is Breaking the Law?

If you notice that your employer is not complying with California’s wage and hour laws, you can bring this up to management without fear of retaliation. It is unlawful for any employer to retaliate or harass an employee for engaging in a protected workplace activity, which includes complaints about wage and hour law violations.

If you do not feel comfortable approaching your employer or have experienced retaliation or harassment for doing so, consult with an employment law attorney for guidance. At K2 Employment Law, we help employees hold their employers accountable for violating their rights and can provide the support you need to get what you deserve.

For more information about our legal services, schedule a free initial consultation with our team by connecting with us online or by calling (800) 590-7674.