​Overview of California Minimum Wage and Overtime Requirements

​Overview of California Minimum Wage and Overtime Requirements

No matter your occupation, you want to ensure that you receive payment for the time you worked. If your employer asks you to work overtime, you want to ensure that your paycheck reflects each hour – and partial hour – you work overtime. When employers fail to pay employees their overtime and minimum wage requirements, it is not just unethical but illegal in California.

Federal and state laws require employers to pay their employees minimum and overtime wages. When your employer violates your wage rights, you need help from an experienced wage and hour lawyer to review your case and fight for your rights to proper compensation.

What is the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA)?

The federal legislation that helps establish mandatory wage laws for employees is the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). This federal law incorporated mandatory minimum wage and overtime pay requirements for all federal, state, and local government employees and the private sector. This law entitles all non-exempt employees who work over 40 hours per week to one-and-a-half times their regular pay.

California minimum wage requirements

In addition to the FLSA, California state law requires employers to pay employees a required minimum wage rate. California laws are more employee-friendly than federal law (or most other states), so the minimum wage requirements are stricter in the Golden State.

The minimum wage for companies with more than 25 employees is $15 an hour, while smaller companies must pay $14 per hour. Certain localities have higher wages, so employers and employees should stay aware of state and local laws. The minimum wage laws routinely increase in California, and employees should always know what they deserve per hour and ensure they receive the proper wages.

Exempt employees

Federal and state laws require all employees to receive the minimum wage. This means that even if an employee agrees to work for less than the wage rate, they cannot lawfully do so. Each employee should receive at least the minimum wage rate except for a few groups working specific jobs.

Some workers who are exempt from the California minimum wage requirements include:

  • National service program participants
  • Mentally or physically disabled employees participating in authorized nonprofits and rehabilitation institutions
  • Student employees
  • Camp counselors
  • Organized camp program counselors
  • Outside salespeople

If you do not work in one of the above professions, you should receive the minimum wage – or more – for every hour you work for your employer. If you do not, you might have a wage claim against your employer, and you should seek a consultation with a wage and hour attorney immediately.

Additional exceptions to minimum wage requirements

In addition to the other groups of exempt employees, independent contractors are also exempt from receiving minimum wage rates from employers. Independent contractors are workers who perform services for other employers while maintaining full control of how they work. Because independent contractors are not under the control of an employer, they are not entitled to the benefits that other employees will receive while working with the employer.

Employers will often misclassify employees as independent contractors to avoid paying employment taxes and the wages and benefits employees deserve. Employers can be liable for this deliberate violation when they misclassify employees as independent contractors. If you believe a company misclassified you and denied you proper wages, seek legal help.

Overtime pay requirements

Just like in other states, California considers eight hours a regular workday. Employees who work past 40 hours in a workweek have the legal right to receive one and one-half times the regular rate of pay they earn. Employees who work up to 12 hours in a workday are entitled to this overtime pay requirement. Employees who work past 12 hours in a workday are entitled to receive double their regular pay rate.

Exemptions to overtime pay requirements

As with the minimum wage, not every employee receives overtime pay.

The law exempts these employees from receiving overtime pay:

  • Administrative employees
  • Computer employees
  • Executive employees
  • Licensed professionals
  • Outside sales employees

In California, exempt employees must earn at least $1,120 a week if employed by a company with 25 employees or less. Workers at a company with 26 or more employees must earn at least $1,200 weekly.

Employees should expect to receive fair pay for the hours of overtime they worked, regardless of whether the employer authorized overtime or not. That means that if an employer withholds an employee’s overtime pay for working unauthorized overtime, they can be legally liable for wage and hour violations. Employees should receive mandatory overtime pay rates when they work overtime.

When employees must receive overtime wages

Another wage and hour violation that employers can commit is delaying overtime wages to employees. Employees must receive overtime wages by the next payroll period after they earn them. An exception might allow employers to delay payment until the second-next payroll period. When employers unlawfully delay the overtime wages that employees deserve, that is a serious wage and hour violation, and employers should face liability.

Violating overtime and minimum wage laws in California

There are several reasons employers violate their employees’ wage and hour laws. The main reason is to save money. Other reasons include discriminating against certain employees based on race, age, and gender. Some employers make unintentional mistakes while dealing with payroll and forget to include the overtime wages for every employee.

Regardless, you have the right to sue when your employer violates your wage and hour rights. It does not matter whether the violation was intentional you have the right to hold your employer liable for unpaid wages.

Employers violate minimum wage and overtime pay laws by:

  • Misclassifying employees as independent contractors
  • Failing to pay the standard minimum wage rate to employees
  • Failing to pay employees when they work during rest or meal breaks
  • Illegal deductions from an employee’s wages
  • Failing to keep an accurate record of hours worked or pay for all time worked

Employers can be liable in civil court when they commit these wage and hour violations. If you believe your employer has violated your wage and overtime rights, be sure to speak with a wage and hour attorney as soon as possible about your situation.

Legal options when you believe your employer violated your wage rights

When your employer withheld your wages or otherwise failed to pay you the wages you earned, they committed a wage violation under FLSA and California law. There are different methods to enforce your rights and seek legal relief. A wage and hour lawyer can explain your legal options in further detail, as your wage claim can proceed in several ways.

Informal negotiations

The first way is through informal negotiations and a settlement, which many employers may offer to avoid a trial. Simply having a lawyer contact your employer might be enough to resolve the matter.

Employers often make errors they will correct to avoid further legal action. Your lawyer will inform your employer how much you need for your unpaid wages, and your employer might pay you shortly to resolve the matter quickly and quietly. Avoiding a public wage case can protect the employer’s resources and reputation, which is often where the process starts.

Labor Commissioner or DOL claims

Your attorney can help you file a wage claim with the California Labor Commissioner’s Office or the Department of Labor (DOL). These agencies enforce wage and hour laws and investigate employers for violations. Because California wage laws are stricter than FLSA, many employees file wage claims on the state level instead of with the federal DOL. In other states, federal claims might be more common.

Your lawyer can handle the entire process of filing your claim and navigating the investigation process on your behalf. Suppose the Labor Commissioner’s Office finds your employer violated the state Labor Code. In that case, it can impose penalties on your employer and order the company to pay your unpaid wages, among other financial recovery.

Civil Lawsuit

Your lawyer might also file a lawsuit in civil court to seek your unpaid wages. Your case will follow standard litigation procedures, including a trial if necessary. Your employer might agree to settle during litigation, or you might have to put your case in the hands of a judge or jury.

Some wage violations affect numerous employees from the same organization, as an employer’s policies might deprive large groups of their rightful wages. When this happens, your lawyer might recommend a class action lawsuit, which combines all of your wage claims into one large lawsuit against your employer.

Why do you need a wage and hour lawyer?

Because the Labor Commissioner regularly oversees wage and hour issues and enforces the law, you may think you do not need to hire a wage and hour lawyer. This is incorrect, as hiring a wage and hour lawyer to handle your lawsuit will benefit you greatly.

A wage and hour lawyer can explore many options to obtain significant outcomes that representatives from the Labor Commissioner cannot. A wage and hour lawyer can protect your legal rights and secure the compensation you deserve.

Laying out your legal options

Depending on your wage and hour violation, your lawyer can decide on the best method to resolve your matter. As we discussed above, a wage claim can take many paths. Your lawyer can determine the best course of action, given your circumstances and the willingness of your employer to cooperate and admit liability.

Assessing your damages

Another way a wage and hour lawyer can help you is by assessing the damages of your lawsuit. Your lawyer can identify many damages you may not consider in your claim. In addition to the unpaid wages you seek, you can include your lawyer’s fees as damages and enforce additional legal penalties employers should pay under the law. California, for example, has a “waiting time” penalty where an employer must pay the equivalent of 30 days of an employee’s unpaid income.

Providing personal attention to your lawsuit

The right wage and hour lawyer will exhaust all options possible to recover the most compensation from your lawsuit. If settlement negotiations do not work, they can move on to a Labor Commissioner claim or lawsuit. They know your options under the law and take time to pursue every available avenue to obtain your unpaid wages.

Operating on a contingency fee basis

Another benefit of hiring a wage and hour lawyer is that they work on a contingency fee basis. With a contingency fee arrangement, you agree to pay your lawyers’ fees from a percentage of your compensation when you win your lawsuit. Instead of paying hourly fees, which can become expensive for some clients, your lawyer will set up an arrangement to receive a percentage of your compensation. This arrangement is beneficial for both you and your wage and hour lawyer. You do not stress about paying your lawyer out of pocket, and your lawyer will do their best to help you obtain maximum compensation.

Consult with an experienced wage and hour lawyer today

No matter your occupation, you want to ensure that you receive payment for the time you worked. If your employer asks you to work overtime, you want to ensure that your paycheck reflects each hour – and partial hour – you work overtime. When employers fail to pay employees their overtime and minimum wage requirements, it is not just unethical but illegal in California.

Federal and state laws require employers to pay their employees minimum and overtime wages. When your employer violates your wage rights, you need help from an experienced wage and hour lawyer to review your case and fight for your rights to proper compensation.

What is the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA)?

The federal legislation that helps establish mandatory wage laws for employees is the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). This federal law incorporated mandatory minimum wage and overtime pay requirements for all federal, state, and local government employees and the private sector. This law entitles all non-exempt employees who work over 40 hours per week to one-and-a-half times their regular pay.

California minimum wage requirements

In addition to the FLSA, California state law requires employers to pay employees a required minimum wage rate. California laws are more employee-friendly than federal law (or most other states), so the minimum wage requirements are stricter in the Golden State.

The minimum wage for companies with more than 25 employees is $15 an hour, while smaller companies must pay $14 per hour. Certain localities have higher wages, so employers and employees should stay aware of state and local laws. The minimum wage laws routinely increase in California, and employees should always know what they deserve per hour and ensure they receive the proper wages.

Exempt employees

Federal and state laws require all employees to receive the minimum wage. This means that even if an employee agrees to work for less than the wage rate, they cannot lawfully do so. Each employee should receive at least the minimum wage rate except for a few groups working specific jobs.

Some workers who are exempt from the California minimum wage requirements include:

  • National service program participants
  • Mentally or physically disabled employees participating in authorized nonprofits and rehabilitation institutions
  • Student employees
  • Camp counselors
  • Organized camp program counselors
  • Outside salespeople

If you do not work in one of the above professions, you should receive the minimum wage – or more – for every hour you work for your employer. If you do not, you might have a wage claim against your employer, and you should seek a consultation with a wage and hour attorney immediately.

Additional exceptions to minimum wage requirements

In addition to the other groups of exempt employees, independent contractors are also exempt from receiving minimum wage rates from employers. Independent contractors are workers who perform services for other employers while maintaining full control of how they work. Because independent contractors are not under the control of an employer, they are not entitled to the benefits that other employees will receive while working with the employer.

Employers will often misclassify employees as independent contractors to avoid paying employment taxes and the wages and benefits employees deserve. Employers can be liable for this deliberate violation when they misclassify employees as independent contractors. If you believe a company misclassified you and denied you proper wages, seek legal help.

Overtime pay requirements

Just like in other states, California considers eight hours a regular workday. Employees who work past 40 hours in a workweek have the legal right to receive one and one-half times the regular rate of pay they earn. Employees who work up to 12 hours in a workday are entitled to this overtime pay requirement. Employees who work past 12 hours in a workday are entitled to receive double their regular pay rate.

Exemptions to overtime pay requirements

As with the minimum wage, not every employee receives overtime pay.

The law exempts these employees from receiving overtime pay:

  • Administrative employees
  • Computer employees
  • Executive employees
  • Licensed professionals
  • Outside sales employees

In California, exempt employees must earn at least $1,120 a week if employed by a company with 25 employees or less. Workers at a company with 26 or more employees must earn at least $1,200 weekly.

Employees should expect to receive fair pay for the hours of overtime they worked, regardless of whether the employer authorized overtime or not. That means that if an employer withholds an employee’s overtime pay for working unauthorized overtime, they can be legally liable for wage and hour violations. Employees should receive mandatory overtime pay rates when they work overtime.

When employees must receive overtime wages

Another wage and hour violation that employers can commit is delaying overtime wages to employees. Employees must receive overtime wages by the next payroll period after they earn them. An exception might allow employers to delay payment until the second-next payroll period. When employers unlawfully delay the overtime wages that employees deserve, that is a serious wage and hour violation, and employers should face liability.

Violating overtime and minimum wage laws in California

There are several reasons employers violate their employees’ wage and hour laws. The main reason is to save money. Other reasons include discriminating against certain employees based on race, age, and gender. Some employers make unintentional mistakes while dealing with payroll and forget to include the overtime wages for every employee.

Regardless, you have the right to sue when your employer violates your wage and hour rights. It does not matter whether the violation was intentional you have the right to hold your employer liable for unpaid wages.

Employers violate minimum wage and overtime pay laws by:

  • Misclassifying employees as independent contractors
  • Failing to pay the standard minimum wage rate to employees
  • Failing to pay employees when they work during rest or meal breaks
  • Illegal deductions from an employee’s wages
  • Failing to keep an accurate record of hours worked or pay for all time worked

Employers can be liable in civil court when they commit these wage and hour violations. If you believe your employer has violated your wage and overtime rights, be sure to speak with a wage and hour attorney as soon as possible about your situation.

When your employer withheld your wages or otherwise failed to pay you the wages you earned, they committed a wage violation under FLSA and California law. There are different methods to enforce your rights and seek legal relief. A wage and hour lawyer can explain your legal options in further detail, as your wage claim can proceed in several ways.

Informal negotiations

The first way is through informal negotiations and a settlement, which many employers may offer to avoid a trial. Simply having a lawyer contact your employer might be enough to resolve the matter.

Employers often make errors they will correct to avoid further legal action. Your lawyer will inform your employer how much you need for your unpaid wages, and your employer might pay you shortly to resolve the matter quickly and quietly. Avoiding a public wage case can protect the employer’s resources and reputation, which is often where the process starts.

Labor Commissioner or DOL claims

Your attorney can help you file a wage claim with the California Labor Commissioner’s Office or the Department of Labor (DOL). These agencies enforce wage and hour laws and investigate employers for violations. Because California wage laws are stricter than FLSA, many employees file wage claims on the state level instead of with the federal DOL. In other states, federal claims might be more common.

Your lawyer can handle the entire process of filing your claim and navigating the investigation process on your behalf. Suppose the Labor Commissioner’s Office finds your employer violated the state Labor Code. In that case, it can impose penalties on your employer and order the company to pay your unpaid wages, among other financial recovery.

Civil Lawsuit

Your lawyer might also file a lawsuit in civil court to seek your unpaid wages. Your case will follow standard litigation procedures, including a trial if necessary. Your employer might agree to settle during litigation, or you might have to put your case in the hands of a judge or jury.

Some wage violations affect numerous employees from the same organization, as an employer’s policies might deprive large groups of their rightful wages. When this happens, your lawyer might recommend a class action lawsuit, which combines all of your wage claims into one large lawsuit against your employer.

Why do you need a wage and hour lawyer?

Because the Labor Commissioner regularly oversees wage and hour issues and enforces the law, you may think you do not need to hire a wage and hour lawyer. This is incorrect, as hiring a wage and hour lawyer to handle your lawsuit will benefit you greatly.

A wage and hour lawyer can explore many options to obtain significant outcomes that representatives from the Labor Commissioner cannot. A wage and hour lawyer can protect your legal rights and secure the compensation you deserve.

Depending on your wage and hour violation, your lawyer can decide on the best method to resolve your matter. As we discussed above, a wage claim can take many paths. Your lawyer can determine the best course of action, given your circumstances and the willingness of your employer to cooperate and admit liability.

Assessing your damages

Another way a wage and hour lawyer can help you is by assessing the damages of your lawsuit. Your lawyer can identify many damages you may not consider in your claim. In addition to the unpaid wages you seek, you can include your lawyer’s fees as damages and enforce additional legal penalties employers should pay under the law. California, for example, has a “waiting time” penalty where an employer must pay the equivalent of 30 days of an employee’s unpaid income.

Providing personal attention to your lawsuit

The right wage and hour lawyer will exhaust all options possible to recover the most compensation from your lawsuit. If settlement negotiations do not work, they can move on to a Labor Commissioner claim or lawsuit. They know your options under the law and take time to pursue every available avenue to obtain your unpaid wages.

Operating on a contingency fee basis

Another benefit of hiring a wage and hour lawyer is that they work on a contingency fee basis. With a contingency fee arrangement, you agree to pay your lawyers’ fees from a percentage of your compensation when you win your lawsuit. Instead of paying hourly fees, which can become expensive for some clients, your lawyer will set up an arrangement to receive a percentage of your compensation. This arrangement is beneficial for both you and your wage and hour lawyer. You do not stress about paying your lawyer out of pocket, and your lawyer will do their best to help you obtain maximum compensation.

Consult with an experienced wage and hour lawyer today

Alreen Haeggquist - Fair Labor Standards Act Wage Claims Attorney in San Diego
Alreen Haeggquist – Minimum Wage and Overtime Requirements Attorney

When your employer fails to pay you the wages you deserve, they violate your legal rights under the law and cause you financial losses. Your employer must be accountable for failing to pay you what you earned. Holding them liable is not always easy, especially when your employer denies a violation or tries to cover up unlawful conduct.

Employment law is a particular area of law with different procedures and nuances. You need a wage-and-hour attorney handling your claim from the start.

Reaching out to an experienced wage and hour lawyer will relieve stress and help you clarify how best to proceed. The sooner you speak to an experienced attorney, the sooner you will know your rights and how to protect them.

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