California Wage And Hour Laws 2021

Learn about your wage hour and benefit rights in California

If your employer isn't paying you on time or if you feel your employee rights are being violated, you must immediately consult with a California employee rights lawyer by contacting a California Bar Certified lawyer referral service. An employee rights lawyer will be able to identify if your rights have been violated and help you take immediate action.

California Wage And Hour Law

California Minimum Wage 2021

In California, the minimum wage varies depending on the size of the employer. Effective January 1, 2021, an employer with 25 or fewer workers currently has to pay $13.00 per hour to staff, and an employer with 26 or more employees has to pay $14.00 per hour to staff.

California Overtime

California law states an employer to pay overtime to workers for all hours worked in a workweek of more than 40 hours and eight hours on a workday. An employer must also pay overtime to staff in a workweek who work a seventh consecutive day.

A California employer must pay non-exempt workers overtime at the rate of one and a half times the standard rate of pay of the employee for any hours worked more than 40 in any workweek; for all hours worked more than eight, up to and including 12 hours, on any workday; and for the first eight hours of work on the seventh consecutive day of work in a workweek. Also, an employer must pay twice the employee's regular pay rate for any hours worked over 12 on any working day and for any hours worked more than eight on the seventh consecutive workday in a workweek.

Rest Breaks

For each four-hour workday, a California employer must have a paid 10-minute rest period for non-exempt workers. Rest times must be given as near as possible to the middle of the workday. An employee in California is entitled to one hour of pay for each working day if the rest time is not allowed.

Meal Breaks

An employer in California must have no less than a 30-minute mealtime for non-exempt workers if they work more than 5 hours a day. When the employee's work time is more than 10 hours, a second meal period of no less than 30 minutes must be given. With each shift that the mealtime is not provided, an employee is entitled to one hour of pay.

Breastfeeding Breaks

A California employer must offer a sufficient amount of break time to accommodate an employee wishing to breast milk for the employee's infant child. The break must run concurrently with any break time already given to the worker, if possible. There is no need to pay for break time that does not run simultaneously with the regular break time. If doing so will significantly interrupt the employer's activities, an employer cannot break time.

An employer must provide the employee with a room or other place for the employee to express milk in private. If it otherwise satisfies the legal criteria, the room or position can include where the employee usually works. An employer can claim unfair hardship in certain circumstances.

An employer must establish and enforce a policy on lactation accommodation and include it in the employee's manual or policies. When an employee requests parental leave, the employer must distribute the policy to new workers upon hire.

California Child Labor

In California, child labor laws limit the industries in which minors can be working and the number of hours and periods at which they can work.

California has implemented the federal guidelines of its own legislation for most professions. However, California laws restrict minors under the age of 16 from working in different professions, including some forms of equipment, railroads, toxic acids, scaffolding, and tobacco, among others.

There is also a complex set of requirements in California that restrict the times at which minors can operate. These standards vary from age to age, with different working time limits set for 16- and 17-year-olds, for 14- and 15-year-olds, and for 12- and 13-year-olds, respectively.

California specifies that virtually all minors should have a work permit.

Several different laws in California are unique to the film industry.

Be mindful that if there is an overlap between the federal state and/or local law, it would usually apply to comply with the law that gives the employee the greater rights or benefits.

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Pay and benefits

Main conditions in California that affect pay and benefits are:

Temporary Disability Insurance

A state-run scheme operated by the Workforce Development Department (EDD) is the State Disability Insurance (SDI) program in California. SDI provides qualifying workers who cannot perform their regular or customary job due to a non-work-related illness or accident, including conditions related to pregnancy, with partial wage replacement. The program is entirely financed by taxes deducted from the salaries of workers.

An employer has the choice, subject to EDD approval, of setting up a voluntary private plan in place of a state-administered plan.

Continuing Health Treatment

Community health plans provided to employers of two to 19 workers are mandated by the California Continuation Benefits Replacement Act (Cal-COBRA) to offer qualified recipients (employees and eligible dependents) with continuation coverage. In terms of qualifying activities and timelines, Cal-COBRA mirrors the federal Unified Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA). The note specifications and premiums of Cal-COBRA are different from COBRA.

Cal-COBRA also allows group health plans to give an insured under federal COBRA who has expended continuation coverage the ability to continue coverage for up to 36 months from the date on which the continuation coverage of the insured started, provided that the insured is entitled to less than 36 months of COBRA coverage.

Payment of Wages

California allows workers to be compensated either in cash or through checks paid in full at an existing business located within the state, without fees or discounts.

Direct deposit is allowed if:

  • The worker selects the financial institution;

  • The financial institution has a California branch, and

  • The employee authorizes the deposit voluntarily.

Pay Statements

California employers must provide their employees with an accurate, itemized written pay statement. Statements must be made once salaries are charged, or at least on a half-monthly basis, and provide the following information:

  • Earned gross wages;

  • Complete working hours (for non-exempt staff);

  • Amount of received piece-rate units and applicable piece rate (for workers on a piece-rate basis);

  • Every deduction;

  • Gained net wages;

  • Inclusive pay period dates;

  • The employee's full name and last four numbers of the social security or ID number of the employee;

  • Name and address of an employer;

  • All the hourly rates available during the pay period and the corresponding number of hours worked by the employee at each rate; and

  • The previous overtime, seen as a correction, and the inclusive dates for the pay period worked while paying overtime from a prior pay period.

For piece-rate personnel and temporary service staff, additional criteria exist.

Frequency of Pay

Employers ought to pre-designate paydays.

All salaries received at least twice a month (i.e., half a month) on regular paydays allocated in advance must be charged to non-exempt workers. For the next daily payroll cycle after the payroll period in which the overtime salaries were received, overtime must be compensated by the next payday.

Exempt workers may be paid once a month on or before the 26th of each month in which they receive the salary plus the amount to be received between the 26th and the end of the month.

Deductions on Salaries

If required by the government or court order, with the employee's written consent or other lawful reasons, including child support withholding, creditor garnishments, tax levies, an employer may make deductions from an employee's wages.

Notices on Salary

The Wage Theft Prevention Act allows an employer to provide non-exempt workers with notification of such pay-related information, e.g., the rate of pay of the employee and the basis for that rate, the daily pay period of the employer, the name of the employer) at the time of hire and if the information changes.

Be mindful that if there is an overlap between the federal state and/or local law, it would usually apply to comply with the law that gives the employee the greater rights or benefits.

Leaves of Absence and Time Off

Main requirements in California affecting time off and leaves of absence are:

Family and Medical Leave

Employers with 50 or more workers are allowed by the California Family Rights Act (CFRA) to provide eligible employees for up to 12 weeks of job-protected leave in 12 months for the employee's health or for the birth or placement of a child for adoption or foster care.

While the CFRA and FMLA are mostly parallel to each other, there are ways in which they vary, such as covered family members and what is called a severe health condition.

Paid Family Leave

Under the Family Temporary Disability Insurance scheme, California offers compensated family leave (PFL) benefits. When taking time off to take care of an ill family member or to bond with a newborn of birth or placement for adoption or foster care, qualifying workers to obtain partial pay replacement, in 12 months, employees can take up to eight weeks of PFL.

Paid Sick Leave

Qualified workers can take paid sick leave for the following reasons under the Safe Workplaces Act (HWHFA) for healthy families:

  • Diagnosis, care, or treatment of the current health problem of the employee or a protected family member;

  • For the employee or a protected family member, preventive care; and

  • To seek civil, medical, or social assistance for an employee who is a victim of domestic abuse, sexual harassment, or stalking.

Employees can retain and use up to 24 hours of paid sick leave each year or three days). Total accrual may not exceed 48 hours (or six days) per year, including carryover of unused accumulated time.

Other time off requirements impacting employers in California

A California employer is also expected to comply with more than a dozen other leave and time off rules, in addition to the CFRA and HWHFA, such as:

  • Disability leave for pregnancy (covering employers with five or more employees);

  • Fresh leave for parents (covering employers with 20 or more staff);

  • Care leave for Kin;

  • Military leave for families (covering employers with 25 or more workers);

  • Bone marrow and donor organ leave (covering employers with 15 workers or more);

  • Exit from school events (covering employers with 25 or more staff members);

  • School leave for discipline;

  • Leave due to domestic violence;

  • Victims of crime leave;

  • Duty of Jury leave;

  • Permission to vote;

  • Official leave for the election;

  • Military vacations;

  • Civil Air Patrol leave (covering employers with a workforce of 15 or more);

  • Literacy leave (which includes employees with 25 or more staff);

  • Rehabilitation leave for drugs and alcohol (covering employers with 25 or more employees);

  • Day of rest parameters.

Be mindful that if there is an overlap between the federal and local laws, it would usually apply to comply with the law that gives the employee the greater rights or benefits.

Health and Safety

The main criteria in California that affect health and safety are:

Occupational Safety and Health

Under a state plan authorized by the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), California manages the work safety and health services covering the private sector.

A California employer must provide and keep a secure and healthy workplace for workers under the (Cal/OSH Act). To that end, it is essential to establish and maintain a written, adequate Accident and Illness Prevention Program that includes, among other things, guidance on safe workplace practices.

Smoke-Free Workplace

California forbids smoking in enclosed areas of workplaces, including the use of e-cigarettes. An employer needs to take appropriate action, such as placing "no smoking signs, to discourage smoking in the workplace.

Safe Driving Practices

In California, drivers are forbidden from carrying and using a handheld mobile phone or wireless electronic communications system but can use the phone or device's voice-operated and hands-free features. However, to operate a handheld phone or computer which is mounted on the windshield, dashboard, or center console, a driver can use a single swipe or tap of a finger.

Be mindful that if there is an overlap between federal and/or local law, it would usually apply to comply with the law that gives the employee the greater rights or benefits.

California Wage And Hour Law

Organizational Exit

Primary criteria for California that affect organizational exit are:

Final Pay

An employer must immediately pay final wages to an employee who is terminated and, upon dismissal, to an employee who gives a notice of intent to resign for at least 72 hours. If an employee gives notice of leaving for less than 72 hours, an employer will normally mail final wages within 72 hours.

California law does not allow vacation policies to use it or lose it". Holiday accruals may be capped but may not be forfeited. Therefore at the end of jobs, unused, accrued leave must be paid out.

Wages owed to a deceased worker must be paid to the living spouse or the estate's conservator. Probate of the will does not need to have taken place before payment is made. For wages owed for personal services and accrued holiday time, the employer must pay up to 15,000 net. The party seeking payment must provide the employer with reasonable evidence of identification and make certain statements of fact with an affidavit or a declaration under penalty of perjury.


California law provides an employer with a qualified right to speak to a prospective employer about a former employee's work results or credentials. The contact must be conducted in good faith.

Notifications for Mass Layoff

An employer is required to provide advance notice of a plant closure or mass layoff; the California Worker Adjustment and Retraining Warning Act (Cal-WARN Act) offers workers and their families time to prepare for a possible job loss. While the federal Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act (WARN Act) is modeled on state law, there are ways to vary, such as a covered employer concept.

Be mindful that if there is an overlap between the federal and local laws, it would usually apply to comply with the law that gives the employee the greater rights or benefits.

How To Find Honest And Reputable Employee Rights Lawyers In Los Angeles

You should immediately consult with a pre-screened Los Angeles employment attorney with experience in California labor law.

  1. You can submit a request online 24 hours a day. Free case review within 15 minutes.

  2. By chat, you'll be connected with a California employment lawyer within 5 minutes.

  3. By calling the 24-hour lawyer referral hotline at 1-661-310-7999

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Attorneys are available in most areas of law throughout Southern California. Every lawyer in or network has been vetted for:

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