California Wage and Hour Laws

Posted by Sessions & Kimball |

It’s crucial that you know the wage and hour laws in California so you can ensure that your employer isn’t taking advantage of you or withholding too much money from the salary you rightfully earned. This includes being familiar with laws regarding minimum wage, overtime pay, rest and lunch breaks, and working off the clock. If you believe you’re not receiving the compensation you’re entitled to or that your rights are being violated in another way that relates to wage and hour laws, it’s a good idea to contact an experienced Orange County employment law lawyer as soon as possible.

Minimum Wage

Each state sets its own minimum wage, but there is also a federal minimum wage. If the state minimum wage is below the federal limit, any employees that are governed by the federal laws (which includes most of them) are required to abide by the federal minimum wage laws. If the minimum wage in the state is higher than the federal rate, employers have to abide by the state law. In California, the minimum wage is $13 per hour for employers who employ 25 or fewer employees and $14 per hour for employers who have 26 or more employees. This is significantly higher than the federal minimum wage, which is currently $7.25 per hour.

It’s also important to note that some counties in California actually have a higher minimum wage than the state requires, which means employers in those counties are required to pay the higher wage.


California’s overtime laws apply to non-exempt employees only. If you’re entitled to overtime, your employer must pay you 1.5x your regular rate of pay. For example, if you make $16 per hour, your overtime rate would be $24 per hour. Overtime must be paid if you work more than eight hours in one workday or more than 40 hours in one workweek. Unpaid overtime should be recognized, and you should be compensated for working overtime.

There’s also double overtime in California, which requires employers to pay employees twice their hourly rate if they work more than 12 hours in one workday or more than eight hours on the seventh consecutive workday in one week.

Meal Breaks

In California, employers are required to give most non-exempt employees meal breaks. If you work more than five hours in one workday, you must be given a break of at least 30 minutes. If you’re only working six hours in one day, you as the employee can agree to waive the break. If you are working more than ten hours in one workday, you must receive two 30-minute meal breaks. The rules sometimes differ if there’s a collective bargaining agreement that states otherwise, but this is the general law in California. Your employer is not required to pay you for your meal break.

Rest Breaks

Non-exempt employees in California are entitled to ten-minute rest periods per every four hours that they work. If your shift is less than 3.5 hours long, you are not entitled to a break. If you are entitled to a break, it counts as time worked and you must get paid for the time you are resting.

Knowing the laws surrounding wages is important. You can’t protect your rights if you don’t know what they are. If you believe your employer is violating any of the California or federal wage and hour laws, contact a lawyer as soon as possible.