Am I Entitled to Overtime Pay in California?
Most employers must pay overtime pay for every hour of overtime an employee works in California, unless the employee is exempt. To figure out if you are entitled to overtime pay for your work in California, you need to know:
- whether your employer is covered by federal or state overtime pay laws
- whether you are eligible for overtime pay under federal or state overtime pay laws
- whether you are exempt from overtime pay laws
- how California regulates overtime pay, and
- how California calculates the overtime pay rate.
The federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) requires most employers to pay employees one-and-a-half times their regular hourly wage (called "time and a half") for every hour worked over 40 hours in a workweek, unless the employee is exempt (that is, the employee falls within an exception to the overtime requirement). So, if you are eligible, you should be paid your regular hourly wage plus 50% of that wage as premium pay for each overtime hour you work.
Checklist: Information and Documents You Will Need to File a Wage Claim
If you decide to file a claim for unpaid wages, be sure you have all of the information and documents you will need, including:
- personal information, such as name, birthdate, address, phone number, email address, and Social Security number
- name, address, and phone number of your employer
- the location where you actually worked (this may be different from the employer’s official address)
- your manager’s or the company owner’s name and phone number
- a description of the type of work you did or do for the employer
- pay stubs or wage statements showing how, when, and how much you were paid for the period in question, and
- work hours, shift assignments, or other time records showing hours worked in the period in question.
You can find more information about what you need to have on hand to file a wage claim at California Department of Industrial Relations.
Current Minimum Wage in California
The minimum wage in California is $15.50 an hour. Because this is higher than the federal minimum wage of $7.25, employees in The Golden State must be paid at least $15.50 an hour.
Quite a few local governments in California have passed ordinances establishing a higher minimum wage. If you work in one of these cities or counties, you are entitled to earn the higher local minimum wage amount.
The federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) sets the “floor” minimum wage for eligible workers in the U.S. This means most workers can't be paid less than the federal minimum wage, which is currently $7.25 an hour. But, many states and some local governments set their own minimum wage. Workers are entitled to be paid the highest minimum wage that applies where they work, whether it is set by federal, state, or local law.
You can find out whether your local government has a minimum wage law, as well as information on how to enforce your minimum wage rights, at our Saint Helena, CA Minimum Wage and Wage Claims page.
What Are My Rights to Tips in California?
Although many states allow employers to pay tipped employees less than the minimum wage, California is not among them. In California, your employer must pay you the full hourly minimum wage.
If you earn tips, you should know the rules about
- what counts as a tip
- how much your employer must pay you in addition to your tips, and
- whether you can be required to contribute to a tip sharing arrangement (also called a “tip pool”).
Does My California Employer Have to Give Me Breaks From Work?
California is one of a handful of states that require employers to provide paid rest breaks to employees.
Although many employees get meal and rest breaks during the workday, these breaks aren’t legally required everywhere. Federal law doesn’t require employers to give employees time off to eat or rest during their shifts. Employees are entitled to these breaks only if their state requires it.
The federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) doesn’t require employers to give breaks, but it does regulate when employers have to pay for breaks they choose to give.
Should Your Breaks Be Paid?
The FLSA requires employers to pay employees for all hours worked, including time the employer may classify as a “break.” An employer does not have to pay for longer meal breaks during which the employee is relieved of all work duties.
Your Final Paycheck Rights in California
When your job ends, you have the right to be paid for all of the work you've done. Whether you quit, you were laid off, or you were fired, your employer must give you a final paycheck that includes all of the wages you have earned. The deadlines and contents of your check depend on California law.
When Is Your Final Paycheck Due?
Federal law does not set a deadline for your final paycheck. But some states require employers to pay your final paycheck within a set number of days after termination or resignation. And, these deadlines sometimes differ depending on whether you were fired or resigned.
Am I Entitled to Paid Sick Leave, Family Leave, or Vacation Time in California?
Employees in California are legally entitled to paid sick leave, state temporary disability benefits, and paid family leave benefits under California law.
The rules for paid sick and family leave have changed rapidly in response to COVID-19. In March of 2020, Congress passed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, which required many employers to start providing some paid time off to employees affected by COVID-19 by the beginning of April. The leave provisions of the law expired at the end of 2020, however.
Employers in most states are not legally required to offer paid time off to employees, although many choose to do so. more...
How Can I Find a Wage and Hour Lawyer in California?
You can find a good employment lawyer to help with your wage claim in California in several ways. A referral from someone you know is a great way to find a lawyer. Ask family members, friends, and co-workers whether they can recommend a good employment lawyer.
Lawyers specialize, so the lawyer who handled your sister’s car accident won’t be the right person to handle your wage claim. However, lawyers also know other lawyers, so don’t hesitate to ask a well-recommended lawyer in a different field for an employment lawyer referral. more...
Intern or Employee: Should I Be Getting Paid?
Do you have an unpaid internship that feels suspiciously like a job? Although there are certainly legitimate internships throughout the private sector, which provide interns with important opportunities to learn new skills, there are also plenty of scams. Unless your internship meets all six of the requirements explained below, you should be getting paid.
Generally speaking, people who work for a company are entitled to be paid. They are protected by wage and hour laws guaranteeing them the minimum wage, overtime, and so on. Unpaid internships are an exception to this general rule. But an employer may call a work opportunity an internship -- for which they will receive work they don't have to pay for -- only if it truly is an educational opportunity for the intern, rather than just unpaid labor.
What Can I Do If I Am Owed Pay in California?
If you have an overtime, minimum wage violation, or other wage and hour claim against your employer, you can complain within your company, file a wage claim (in most states), or file a lawsuit to assert your rights.
If your employer has not paid you the full minimum wage, has not paid you overtime you earned, has not paid you for every hour worked, has required you to work through unpaid breaks, or has illegally kept your tips (among other things), you may have a legal claim for wage theft. Below, we explain the most common wage law violations and provide information on how to enforce your right to be paid fairly, and on time, for all of your work.
Common Wage and Overtime Violations
If your employer hasn’t paid you fully for every hour you have worked, you may have legal claims for violation of the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) or California wage and hour law. Here are some common wage theft claims.
How an Employment Lawyer Can Help You
You don’t have to hire a lawyer to help you negotiate with your employer about unpaid wages or overtime, file a wage claim, or even file a lawsuit in California or federal court. At some point in the legal process, however, most people will want to at least consult with a lawyer. And, for many, it will make sense to hire a lawyer early on.
There are many ways an employment lawyer can help you with your legal claims for unpaid wages or overtime. A lawyer can help you by:
- Figuring out whether your employer is breaking the law (that is, whether you have a claim in the first place).
- Determining how much your employer owes you, including unpaid wages or overtime, other out-of-pocket expenses, and penalties.
What Will It Cost to Hire a Wage and Hour Lawyer?
If your employer (or former employer) already owes you unpaid wages, overtime, pay for breaks you had to work through, or other compensation you never received, you may be wondering whether you can afford to hire a lawyer to help you get your money back. The good news is that employment lawyers representing employees usually charge their clients on a contingency fee basis. This means the lawyer gets paid only if you win, out of the money you receive as a settlement or award.
Below, we explain how attorney fees and court costs work in a case for overtime or other unpaid wages. more...