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California Salary Laws – What Workers Need to Know

California Salary Laws – What Workers Need to Know

California has some of the most progressive worker protection laws in the country. As an employee in California, it’s important to understand your rights when it comes to compensation. This article will provide an overview of key California salary laws and regulations that employees should know.

Minimum Wage

California has one of the highest minimum wages in the nation, currently set at $15 per hour for employers with 26 or more employees. The minimum wage is slightly less for smaller companies, but will reach $15 per hour statewide by January 1, 2023.In addition to the state minimum wage law, many cities and counties in California have enacted their own higher minimum wage ordinances, including Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Jose, Oakland, and San Diego. Be sure to check if the city or county where you work has a higher minimum wage than the state level requirement.

Overtime Pay

Like federal law, California requires overtime pay for nonexempt employees who work more than 8 hours in a day or 40 hours in a week. The overtime rate is 1.5 times the regular rate of pay. California also requires double time pay for hours worked over 12 in a day or over 8 hours on the 7th consecutive workday in a week.Some industries like agriculture and domestic work have different overtime thresholds, so check with the California Department of Industrial Relations to understand overtime requirements for your specific job.

Meal and Rest Breaks

California law requires employers to provide meal breaks of at least 30 minutes for shifts longer than 5 hours. If you work more than 10 hours in a day, you are entitled to a second 30-minute meal break. These meal breaks must be uninterrupted and free from work duties.You are also entitled to 10-minute paid rest breaks for every 4 hours worked. Your employer cannot require you to stay on premises during rest breaks.

Pay Stub and Wage Statements

Employers in California must provide itemized wage statements that include total hours worked, pay rate, gross and net wages, deductions, and other information. You must receive these wage statements each time you are paid.California law also entitles employees to inspect or copy payroll records pertaining to their employment. This can help you ensure you are being properly paid.

Pay Frequency and Final Paychecks

For nonexempt employees, wages must be paid at least twice per month. Exempt employees can be paid once per month. When employment ends, final paychecks must be provided on the last day of work if you are fired or laid off. If you quit with at least 72 hours notice, your final pay is due within 72 hours.

Deductions from Pay

California employers are not allowed to deduct money from paychecks unless specifically authorized by law or the employee. Common lawful deductions include taxes, Social Security, Medicare, health insurance premiums, and voluntary deductions authorized by the employee.If an employer made an improper deduction from your pay, you can file a wage claim to recover those wages.

Pay Equity and Discrimination Protections

The California Fair Pay Act strengthens equal pay protections for women and minorities. Employers cannot pay employees less than those of another race or gender for substantially similar work. “Substantially similar work” accounts for skill, effort, responsibility, and working conditions.If you believe you are experiencing pay discrimination, you can file a complaint with the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH).

Nearly all employees in California have a right to paid sick leave. Full-time employees must receive at least 24 hours (3 days) of paid sick leave per year. Part-time workers earn at least 1 hour of paid leave for every 30 hours worked.You can use accrued paid sick leave for the diagnosis, care, or treatment of your own or a family member’s health condition. Sick leave can also be used for preventive care or for specified purposes if you are a victim of domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking.


I hope this overview gives California employees a better understanding of their rights and protections under state law when it comes to compensation and benefits. While California has some of the strongest worker protections, it’s still important for employees to educate themselves and advocate for fair pay and treatment. Don’t hesitate to reach out to the state agencies listed above if you feel your rights are being violated.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are some key differences between California and federal labor laws?

Some major differences include:

  • Higher minimum wage – $15 per hour in California vs. $7.25 federally
  • More overtime protections – daily OT in California
  • Meal and rest break requirements
  • Pay stub and inspection rights
  • Greater protections against pay discrimination

California laws tend to be more progressive and worker-friendly compared to federal requirements. However, federal laws may apply if they offer greater protections than state law.

What can I do if I think my employer isn’t following California labor laws?

First, consult your employee handbook or talk to HR about the policies at your workplace. Keep records of your hours worked, pay stubs, and any relevant documentation. If you believe your employer is violating laws regarding pay, breaks, leave, or discrimination, you can file a wage claim with the California Labor Commissioner‘s Office or a discrimination claim through DFEH. Retaliation for exercising your rights is illegal.

Who is considered a nonexempt employee?

Nonexempt employees are entitled to overtime pay and other wage protections. They are generally paid hourly and perform job duties that are not managerial, administrative, or professional. Some examples include retail workers, restaurant staff, construction workers, assistants, and most entry-level roles. Exempt salaried employees in executive, administrative, or professional roles are not covered by overtime laws.

Can my employer require me to stay on the work premises during rest breaks?

No, California law requires employers to provide off-duty rest periods of at least 10 minutes for every 4 hours worked. You must be free of all work duties and able to leave the premises if you choose. An employer cannot impose unreasonable restrictions during your rest breaks.

What are the penalties if an employer violates California wage and hour laws?

The penalties for wage violations include unpaid wages, liquidated damages, civil penalties, interest, costs, and attorney‘s fees. Employees have a right to pursue private lawsuits against employers who violate California labor laws. Employers can face fines from state agencies as well. Intentional wage theft can even result in criminal prosecution.

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