Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility Explained: Wages and Benefits Laws in California - Pride Legal

California labor law protects workers from all types of discrimination and hardship in the workplace. The state of California has some of the strongest employment laws in the US, all of which are for the benefit of the employee. Here’s everything you need to know about wages and benefits in California.

California protects all worker’s wages and benefits in the workplace.

When are employees given a meal and rest time?

Unlike many states, California requires employers to pay employees for the time they had spent on break, as well as some time for their lunch break. California requires both lunch and break times, but only after a certain number of hours has passed. Labor law requires employees to have a 30-minute lunch break for every 5 hours worked. If the employee works for 10 hours, they will acquire two 30 minute breaks. The employee has the right to waive either break they have, but may not waive both in a single day.

Rest times are also required by California law. An employer must allow an employee a 10-minute break every 4 hours of work. If an employee works for 4 hours in total, they would receive a break in the 2nd hour. Rest times are meant to be given halfway through the workday.

When are employers required to pay overtime?

Both federal and state law requires employers to pay overtime at 50% of the employee’s normal pay. Exempt employees are not able to receive overtime pay. Employees who qualify for overtime pay are employees who work over 8 hours in a workday and over 40 hours in a week. Employees are also eligible for 50% overtime pay once they have worked for seven consecutive days. Federal law allows for double an employee’s wage once they have worked for over 12 hours in a workday.

There are some exceptions to this law. Salaried employees who make at least $684 every week are not entitled to overtime pay. A worker is not on salary if an employer will dock an employee’s pay for a day if they had left work early to attend to personal matters. This worker is paid hourly, not on the basis of salary. Administrative employees are also not entitled to overtime. Managers of companies or employees who manage other employees are not eligible to receive overtime pay.

Are employers always required to pay minimum wage?

In California, all employers are required to pay employees minimum wage, regardless of how much was received in tips. Some states will allow tips to be given towards minimum wage, leading to some people receiving at little as $2.15 per work hour. California wages and benefits laws protect against this. Employers are not allowed to take tips from employees unless they are designated as ‘service charges’ by the restaurant policy. The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) is designed to create a minimum wage for all workers, however, some employees are not covered. People who work in some fields are not required by law to be paid minimum wage. Some of these workers include:

  • Seasonal workers
  • Salespeople who work outside of the office
  • Independent contractors
  • Workers of small farms
  • Apprentices such as students or learners.

These workers are not eligible under federal law to receive minimum wage. These workers could work based on commission or the number of jobs finished, thus they are not protected under the FLSA.

What can be deducted from an employee’s paycheck?

Under federal and state law, most costs cannot be taken out of an employee’s paycheck. Items such as uniforms, or having a uniform pressed and cleaned could be deducted out of the employee’s paycheck. There are some exceptions to this rule, however. If an employee does not make double minimum wage, an employer may not charge the employee. The employer may not charge for a uniform in California, although they may charge the employee if they do not return the uniform once they are terminated.

The same law applies to the tools and equipment needed by an employee. In California, if a worker does not make double the minimum wage, they may not be charged for tools or equipment. Employers may not charge for equipment that the general company uses, such as large pieces of equipment, or any other item the entire company would have access to and need.

Employers may NOT take money out of any employee’s paycheck if there is a cash register shortage. If there is some money missing from the cash register at the end of the workday, the employer may not deduct the funds from an employee’s paycheck. Unless the employer can prove that the employee had acted dishonestly, or had stolen money from the register, the employer may not take action against an employee.

May an employer deduct money for meals and lodging?

If the employer provides meals for the workforce, they have the option of asking the workers if they would like to pay for it. In the state of California, there is a law protecting workers who were provided with meals. The law states that employers may not charge employees for meals unless the employee voluntarily offers a part of their paycheck.

Can an employer withhold a paycheck to pay back a debt?

For example, an employee had asked their employee for an advance on their next paycheck. Would the employer be able to withhold some or all of the next paycheck of the employee? Under California law, the employer would have the ability to garnish or withhold 25% of the employee’s paycheck until the debt is paid. The employer would not be able to withhold all wages and benefits from the employee. 

May an employer deduct pay from an employee for not meeting quotas?

Exempt employees may NOT have their wages and benefits taken away if they have not met a quota. Nonexempt employees may have their pay deducted for not meeting certain quotas. If an employer has deducted pay from an exempt employee, the employer is treating the worker as if they were nonexempt. As exempt employees work and are paid a set amount each pay period, they are not docked on the quality or quantity of work done. The employee may then argue that they have not been paid overtime ever since they are being classified as a ‘nonexempt’ employee by their employer. Employers are able to make deductions for nonexempt employees for one or more days off if:

  • They must attend personal affairs
  • Unpaid leave or unpaid vacation leave
  • Serve for jury duty

The employer may deduct pay for the days or hours missed by these affairs.

Contact Pride Legal

If you or a loved one’s wages or benefits have been jeopardized, we invite you to contact us at Pride Legal for legal counseling or any further questions. To protect your rights, hire someone who understands them.

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