Wage and Hour Violations

California employees have the legal right to compensation if their employers violate the state's wage and hour laws. Common wage/hour law violations in California include:

  • Failing to pay the minimum wage;
  • Failing to pay overtime;
  • Requiring “work off the clock“;
  • Failing to provide required meal and/or rest breaks;
  • Misclassifying employees as exempt from wage/hour requirements; and
  • Misclassifying employees as independent contractors.

Minimum wage

With a few special exceptions, all California employees–including “exempt employees,” but excluding independent contractors–must be paid the minimum wage set out in the state's wage and hour laws.

The California minimum wage as of January 1, 2020 is

  • twelve dollars ($12.00) per hour for employers with twenty-five (25) or fewer employees, and
  • thirteen dollars ($13.00) per hour for employers with twenty-six (26) or more employees.

That minimum wage is scheduled to rise annually until it reaches fifteen dollars ($15) per hour for all employers in 2022.

That is the state's minimum wage. Some California cities and counties have an even higher minimum wage.


The right to overtime pay is another key right that California wage/hour law provides to employees. California overtime laws only apply to non-exempt employees. California employers may not get around overtime requirements by requiring or pressuring employees to “work off the clock

Employers must pay non-exempt employees “time and a half” for overtime for any work in excess of:

  • eight (8) hours in one workday, or
  • forty (40) hours in one workweek.

Employees are also entitled to “time and a half” overtime for the first eight (8) hours of work that they do on the seventh day of a workweek.

In addition, California wage and hour law requires employers to pay employees “double time” overtime for:

  • any work in excess of twelve (12) hours in one workday, or
  • any work in excess of eight (8) hours on the seventh day of a workweek.

In some cases, employers and employees at a workplace may agree that the employees can work up to ten (10) hours in a workday, within a 40-hour workweek, without overtime pay. This is known as an “alternative workweek schedule” and must be approved by at least two-thirds of the affected employees.

Meals and Rest Periods

California law requires employers to provide non-exempt employees with regularly scheduled meal breaks, and rest breaks.

Most non-exempt California employees who work more than five (5) hours in a workday must be given a meal break of at least thirty (30) minutes. However, if the employee will work no more than six (6) hours in the day, s/he may agree to waive the meal break.20

In addition, employees who will work more than ten (10) hours in a day must receive a second thirty (30) minute meal break–which the employee may waive if s/he did not waive the first meal break and will work no more than twelve (12) hours in the day.21

There can be exceptions to the meal break requirements for certain categories of employees whose collective bargaining agreements provide for meal breaks on a different schedule including unionized employees who work in construction occupations, as commercial drivers, as security officers, for electrical or gas companies, or in the motion picture industry.

California also requires employers to provide “rest periods”/rest breaks to non-exempt employees.

Non-exempt employees are entitled to ten minutes of rest period for each four hours, or substantial fraction thereof, that they work. However, employees are not entitled to rest breaks for work shifts that are less than three-and-a-half hours long.

During these rest periods, the employer may not require the employee to perform any duties or to remain “on call.”

If you suspect your employer is violating or has violated wage and hour laws, an experienced employment lawyer can help. We can help you determine the nature of the violation and figure out the best next steps for you.

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