CA Wage & Hour Laws
Frequently Asked Questions
[From the State of California, Department of Industrial Relations website]
Although there are some exceptions, almost all employees in California must be paid the minimum wage as required by state law. Effective January 1, 2016, the minimum wage in California is $10.00 per hour. There are some employees who are exempt from the minimum wage law, such as outside salespersons, individuals who are the parent, spouse, or child of the employer, and apprentices regularly indentured under the State Division of Apprenticeship Standards. Minimum Wage Order (MW-2014)
There is an exception for learners, regardless of age, who may be paid not less than 85% of the minimum wage rounded to the nearest nickel during their first 160 hours of employment in occupations in which they have no previous similar or related experience.
There are also exceptions for employees who are mentally or physically disabled, or both, and for nonprofit organizations such as sheltered workshops or rehabilitation facilities that employ disabled workers. Such individuals and organizations may be issued a special license by the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement authorizing employment at a wage less than the legal minimum wage. Labor Code Sections 1191 and 1191.5
1. Q: What is the minimum wage?
A: Effective January 1, 2016, the minimum wage in California is $10.00 per hour. Effective January 1, 2016, the minimum monthly salary for sheepherders will be $1777.98. Wages paid to sheepherders may not be offset by meals or lodging provided by the employer. Instead, there are provisions in IWC Order 14-2007, Sections 10(F), (G) and (H) that apply to sheepherders with respect to monthly meal and lodging benefits required to be provided by the employer.
2. Q: What is the difference between the local, state and federal minimum wage?
A: Most employers in California are subject to both the federal and state minimum wage laws. Also, local entities (cities and counties) are allowed to enact minimum wage rates and several cities have recently adopted ordinances which establish a higher minimum wage rates for employees working within their local jurisdiction. The effect of this multiple coverage by different government sources is that when there are conflicting requirements in the laws, the employer must follow the stricter standard; that is, the one that is the most beneficial to the employee. Thus, since California's current law requires a higher minimum wage rate than does the federal law, all employers in California who are subject to both laws must pay the state minimum wage rate unless their employees are exempt under California law. Similarly, if a local entity (city or county) has adopted a higher minimum wage, employees must be paid the local wage where it is higher than the state or federal minimum wage rates.
3. Q: May an employee agree to work for less than the minimum wage?
A: No. The minimum wage is an obligation of the employer and cannot be waived by any agreement, including collective bargaining agreements. Any remedial legislation written for the protection of employees may not be violated by agreement between the employer and employee. Civil Code Sections 1668 and 3513
4. Q: Is the minimum wage the same for both adult and minor employees?
A: Yes. There is no distinction made between adults and minors when it comes to payment of the minimum wage.
5. Q: I work in a restaurant as a waitperson. Can my employer use my tips as a credit toward its obligation to pay me the minimum wage?
A: No. An employer may not use an employee's tips as a credit toward its obligation to pay the minimum wage.
In California, the general overtime provisions are that a nonexempt employee 18 years of age or older, or any minor employee 16 or 17 years of age who is not required by law to attend school and is not otherwise prohibited by law from engaging in the subject work, shall not be employed more than eight hours in any workday or more than 40 hours in any workweek unless he or she receives one and one-half times his or her regular rate of pay for all hours worked over eight hours in any workday and over 40 hours in the workweek. Eight hours of labor constitutes a day's work, and employment beyond eight hours in any workday or more than six days in any workweek is permissible provided the employee is compensated for the overtime at not less than:
One and one-half times the employee's regular rate of pay for all hours worked in excess of eight hours up to and including 12 hours in any workday, and for the first eight hours worked on the seventh consecutive day of work in a workweek; and
Double the employee's regular rate of pay for all hours worked in excess of 12 hours in any workday and for all hours worked in excess of eight on the seventh consecutive day of work in a workweek.
There are, however, a number of exemptions from the overtime law. An "exemption" means that the overtime law does not apply to a particular classification of employees. There are also a number of exceptions to the general overtime law stated above. An "exception" means that overtime is paid to a certain classification of employees on a basis that differs from that stated above.
1. Q: What is the "regular rate of pay," and how is it determined?
A: Overtime is based on the regular rate of pay, which is the compensation you normally earn for the work you perform. The regular rate of pay includes a number of different kinds of remuneration, such as hourly earnings, salary, piecework earnings, and commissions. In no case may the regular rate of pay be less than the applicable minimum wage.
Ordinarily, the hours to be used in computing the regular rate of pay may not exceed the legal maximum regular hours which, in most cases, is 8 hours per workday, 40 hours per workweek. This maximum may also be affected by the number of days one works in a workweek. It is important to determine what maximum is legal in each case. The alternate method of scheduling and computing overtime under most Industrial Welfare Commission Wage Orders, based on an alternative workweek schedule of four 10-hour days or three 12-hour days does not affect the regular rate of pay, which in this case also would be computed on the basis of 40 hours per workweek.
The agreed upon regular hours must be used if they are less than the legal maximum regular hours. For example, if you work 32 to 38 hours each week, there is an agreed workweek of 35 hours, and thirty-five hours is the figure used to determine the regular rate of pay. However, in circumstances where the workweek is less than 40 hours, the law does not require payment of the overtime premium unless the employee works more than eight hours in a workday or more than 40 hours in a workweek. In other words, assuming you are employed under a policy that provides for a 35-hour workweek, the law does not require the employer to pay the overtime premium until after 40 hours in a workweek. If you work more than 35 but fewer than 40 hours in a workweek, you will be entitled to be paid for the extra hours at your regular rate of pay, as overtime premium pay is only required after 40 hours in a workweek.
The following are examples of how to calculate the regular rate of pay:
If you are paid on an hourly basis, that amount is the regular rate of pay.
If you are paid a salary, the regular rate is determined as follows:
Multiply the monthly remuneration by 12 (months) to get the annual salary.
Divide the annual salary by 52 (weeks) to get the weekly salary.
Divide the weekly salary by the number of legal maximum regular hours (40) to get the regular hourly rate.
If you are paid by the piece or commission, either of the following methods may be used to determine the regular rate of pay for purposes of computing overtime:
The piece or commission rate is used as the regular rate and you are paid one and one-half this rate for production during the first four overtime hours in a workday, and double time for all hours worked beyond 12 in a workday; or
Divide your total earnings for the workweek, including earnings during overtime hours, by the total hours worked during the workweek, including the overtime hours. For each overtime hour worked you are entitled to an additional one-half the regular rate for hours requiring time and one-half, and to the full rate for hours requiring double time.
A group rate for piece workers is an acceptable method for computing the regular rate of pay. In using this method, the total number of pieces produced by the group is divided by the number of people in the group, with each person being paid accordingly. The regular rate for each worker is determined by dividing the pay received by the number of hours worked. The regular rate cannot be less than the minimum wage.
If you are paid two or more rates by the same employer during the workweek, the regular rate is the "weighted average" which is determined by dividing your total earnings for the workweek, including earnings during overtime hours, by the total hours worked during the workweek, including the overtime hours. For example, if you work 32 hours at $11.00 an hour and 10 hours during the same workweek at $9.00 an hour, your weighted average (and thus the regular rate for that workweek) is $10.52. This is calculated by adding your $442 straight time pay for the workweek [(32hours x $11.00/hour) + (10 hours x $9.00/hour) = $442] and dividing it by the 42 hours you worked.
2. Q: If an employee works unauthorized overtime is the employer obligated to pay for it?
A: Yes, California law requires that employers pay overtime, whether authorized or not, at the rate of one and one-half times the employee's regular rate of pay for all hours worked in excess of eight up to and including 12 hours in any workday, and for the first eight hours of work on the seventh consecutive day of work in a workweek, and double the employee's regular rate of pay for all hours worked in excess of 12 in any workday and for all hours worked in excess of eight on the seventh consecutive day of work in a workweek.
An employer can discipline an employee if he or she violates the employer's policy of working overtime without the required authorization. However, California's wage and hour laws require that the employee be compensated for any hours he or she is "suffered or permitted to work, whether or not required to do so." California case law holds that "suffer or permit" means work the employer knew or should have known about. Thus, an employee cannot deliberately prevent the employer from obtaining knowledge of the unauthorized overtime worked, and come back later to claim recovery. The employer must have the opportunity to obey the law.
3. Q: Is a bonus included in the regular rate of pay for purposes of calculating overtime?
A: Yes, if it is a nondiscretionary bonus. A nondiscretionary bonus is included in determining the regular rate of pay for computing overtime when it is based upon hours worked, production or proficiency.
Discretionary bonuses or sums paid as gifts at a holiday or other special occasions, such as a reward for good service, which are not measured by or dependent upon hours worked, production or efficiency, are not included for purposes of determining the regular rate of pay.
4. Q: Are any amounts excluded from the regular rate of pay?
A: Yes, there are certain types of payments that are excluded from the regular rate of pay. Examples of some of the more common exclusions are sums paid as gifts for special occasions, expense reimbursements, payments made for occasional periods when no work is performed due to vacation, holiday, illness, failure of the employer to provide sufficient work, premium pay for Saturday, Sunday, or holiday work, and discretionary bonuses.
5. Q: Are salaried employees entitled to overtime?
A: It depends. A salaried employee must be paid overtime unless they meet the test for exempt status as defined by federal and state laws, or unless they are specifically exempted from overtime by the provisions of one of the Industrial Welfare Commission Wage Orders regulating wages, hours and working conditions.
6. Q: How is overtime calculated if I work at different rates of pay in the same workweek?
A: If you are paid two or more rates by the same employer during the workweek, the regular rate is the "weighted average" which is determined by dividing your total earnings for the workweek, including earnings during overtime hours, by the total hours worked during the workweek, including the overtime hours. For example, if you work 32 hours at $11.00 an hour and 10 hours during the same workweek at $9.00 an hour, the weighted average (and thus the regular rate for that workweek) is $10.52. This is calculated by adding your $442 straight time pay for the workweek [(32hours x $11.00/hour) + (10 hours x $9.00/hour) = $442] and dividing it by the 42 hours you worked.
7. Q: Can an employer require an employee to work overtime?
A: Yes, an employer may dictate the employee's work schedule and hours. Additionally, under most circumstances the employer may discipline an employee, up to and including termination, if the employee refuses to work scheduled overtime.
8. Q: Last week I worked Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday, eight hours each day. I was out ill all day Friday. For the workweek I was paid 48 hours at my regular hourly rate. Am I entitled to eight hours of overtime pay?
A: No, you are not entitled to any overtime pay. Overtime is calculated based on hours actually worked, and you worked only 40 hours during the workweek. Another example of where you get paid your regular wages but the time is not counted towards overtime is if you get paid for a holiday but do not work that day. In such a case, the time upon which the holiday pay is based does not count as hours worked for purposes of determining overtime because no work was performed.
9. Q: When must I be paid for the overtime hours I work?
A: Overtime wages must be paid no later than the payday for the next regular payroll period after which the overtime wages were earned. Labor Code Section 204 Only the payment of overtime wages may be delayed to the payday of the next following payroll period as the straight time wages must still be paid within the time set forth in the applicable Labor Code section in the pay period in which they were earned; or, in the case of employees who are paid on a weekly, biweekly, or semimonthly basis, not more than seven calendar days following the close of the payroll period.
10. Q: Can an employee waive his or her right to overtime compensation?
A.No, California law requires that an employee be paid all overtime compensation notwithstanding any agreement to work for a lesser wage. Consequently, such an agreement or "waiver" will not prevent an employee from recovering the difference between the wages paid the employee and the overtime compensation he or she is entitled to receive. Labor Code Section 1194