What are the wage and hour laws in California?

State law dictates the minimum wages that employers may pay their workers, as well as the types of breaks and leave they must provide.

Most people in California work in order to make a living. However, if employers do not pay them the wages to which they are entitled, their ability to provide for themselves and their families may be affected. In order to ensure they are not taken advantage of, it is important for those in the workforce to understand the state's wage and hour laws.

Minimum wage

State and federal laws dictate the minimum hourly wage that employers must pay their workers. According to the California Department of Industrial Relations, the minimum wage in California is $10 for each hour worked. This is well above the federal minimum of $7.25. With regards to wages, the state law prevails over the federal, requiring employers to provide the higher level of compensation.

In some state, employers are permitted to pay workers who receive tips a lesser hourly wage. However, California is not one of these states. State law dictates that employers are prohibited from taking any of their workers' tips or applying the gratuities they receive toward their hourly wage requirements.

Work hours and overtime

Neither state nor federal laws limit the number of hours that people can work per day or week. Instead, it is up to the employers and the workers to determine what is needed and what they are willing and able to do. If people put in more than eight hours in a 24-hour period or over 40 hours in a work week, however, they must be paid overtime. The California Department of Industrial Relations points out that the rate for overtime in the state is one and one-half times employees' normal hourly wages.

Rest and meal breaks

Employers in California are not required to provide workers with paid meal and rest breaks during the course of their shifts. Though, employees must be allowed to take one 30-minute unpaid meal break if they work at least five hours, according to the California Department of Industrial Relations. If people work 10 or more hours, they must receive two 30-minute breaks. Employers are required to pay workers for their time if they are not relieved of all of their duties for the duration of their breaks or if they work through their breaks.

Sick leave

While California state law does not mandate that employers give their workers paid vacation leave, they are required to provide them with sick leave. According to the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement, people have a right to one paid hour of sick time for every 30 hours that they work, provided they have worked in California for at least 30 days during the year. Employees' sick time cannot be used until they have been working for at least 90 days, but their time begins accruing on their first day of employment of July 1, 2015, whichever is the latter.

Working with a legal professional

When wage and hour violations occur, it may impair the ability of workers in California to support themselves, as well as do their jobs. In such cases, people may feel they have nowhere to turn and be unsure of how to move forward. Therefore, it may benefit employees who believe their rights are being violated to consult with an attorney. A lawyer may help them understand their options and guide them through the legal process.