California’s wage and hour laws offer some of the strongest protections in the world for workers. Here are some important things to understand if you work in California.
Higher minimum wage
As discussed in a recent post, California’s minimum wage is significantly higher than the federal minimum wage. In fact, the minimum wage in California increased in 2022. If you work for a company with 26 or more employees, you must be paid at least $15 an hour. If you work for a company with 25 or fewer employees, you must be paid at least $14 an hour. Cities throughout California also have their own minimum wage laws that require higher wages than the minimum required by state law. If you have questions about your city’s minimum wage requirements, talk to an experienced California employment law attorney.
No wage deduction for losses caused by an employee
In California, your employer is not allowed to deduct or reduce your wages if you do something that leads to a loss to the company. For example, if you accidentally break a window, your employer is not allowed to deduct the cost of the window from your paycheck. If you find out that your employer has deducted from your paycheck for such a reason, you should talk to an employment law attorney.
Your right to meal and rest breaks
If you are a nonexempt employee, your employer must provide you with a meal break of at least 30 minutes when you work more than five hours a day. This meal break must be provided before the end of your fifth hour of work. Your employer must also provide a second meal break of at least 30 minutes if your work period extends beyond 10 hours. If your employer fails to provide a meal break, you are entitled to compensation for the missed break.
The same is true of missed rest breaks. In California, if you are a nonexempt employee, your employer is required to provide you with a paid 10-minute rest break for each four-hour period you work. If your employer does not authorize or permit a rest break, you are entitled to one additional full hour of pay for each workday that your employer did not provide you with a rest break.
Keep in mind that, to qualify as an actual break under the law, your meal and rest breaks must be free of all work duties.
Unique rules for overtime wages
California’s overtime laws are unique because workers are entitled to overtime pay if they work more than 8 hours in a workday. That is different than laws in other states, where typically employees are owed overtime pay only if they work more than 40 hours in a workweek. To be clear: nonexempt employees in California are owed overtime pay if they work more than 40 hours in a week, but employees are also owed overtime pay if they work more than 8 hours in a single day. In other words, even if you only work a total of 32 hours or fewer in a given week, you are still owed overtime pay if you worked more than 8 hours on any of the days during that week. Please see our California Overtime Overview to learn more.
If you believe your wage and hour rights have been violated, the problem may not be isolated. Other employees may be affected by an employer’s violations. To learn more about what to do when multiple employees’ rights are being violated, please see our overview of Employment Class Actions.