Understanding Your Wage Rights In California

With states having different rules regarding pay rates and mandatory breaks, it can be confusing to know just what California overtime law or minimum wage is. Not knowing what rights you have as a worker could lead to unfair treatment often in the form of inadequate and illegal pay. Understanding your rights when it comes to the number of hours you work will be imperative to ensuring that no employer takes advantage of you and that you are always receiving the pay that is due to you.

How Much Should I Make?

There are federal as well as state level regulations with regards to the minimum amount you must be paid for doing a job. In California, it is higher than the federal regulated minimum wage ($7.25)—California workers are owed at least $8 an hour. It is also important to know that California employers are not required to pay extra for working on a holiday.

Vacation, Meal Time, and Other Breaks

Employers do not have to provide vacation, be it paid or unpaid; however, if they do provide paid vacation there are standards that they must adhere to. While the employer has discretion to determine how many “hours” of vacation you receive each year, in California, vacation is seen as earned, paid time off. Therefore, if you ever leave the position (no matter if you chose to quit or you are fired), your employer is required to pay you for your unused vacation hours.

As far as your breaks go, you are owed a 30 minute meal period for every five hours you work. The only instance where this is not required is if the employee and employer mutually waive the meal, as long as the employee will not be working more than 6 hours that day. You should get a second, 30-minute meal break if you are working 10 or more hours. During this time, you are to be relieved of all duties; otherwise the time will count as hours worked for which you must be compensated.

All employees are also entitled to rest periods for any 4-hour shift. You are required to have a 10-minute break for working 3 ½ – 4 hours, but your employer can require you stay on the premises—this break counts as hours worked meaning you must be compensated for these 10 minutes even though you are not working.

Always make sure you understand your wage rights and are aware of the situations in which you are due extra compensation under the California overtime law. In general California overtime laws state that nonexempt employees are owed additional pay whenever they work more than eight hours in one day or forty hours in one workweek and also for the first eight hours worked on the 7th day worked in a single workweek. Double time (a/k/a Golden Time) is earned for each hour worked over twelve (12) in one day and also for each hour worked over eight on the 7th consecutive day of work in any one workweek.

Jesse Dugan is a part of an elite team of writers who have contributed to hundreds of blogs and news sites. Follow him @JesseDugan.