What Laws Protect Employees in California?

State and Federal Wage and Hour Laws govern how an employee is paid his or her hourly wages for work. Wage violations occur when an employer fails to pay or fails to pay one time, any hourly wages earned by an employee. A Wage violation is also called Wage Theft. An employer’s failure to pay all wages, to pay overtime wages, to provide meal and rest breaks and/or to pay final wages when due are all considered forms of Wage Theft.

Below is a list of the most commonly encountered wage theft violations, per California Law. Please be mindful, that interpretation and application of the various Wage and Hour Laws is complicated, and at times can puzzle the most knowledgeable employers and employees. Therefore, it is extremely important that you contact a Labor Law attorney to help you navigate the twists, turns, and exceptions to California and United States Wage and Hour laws and regulations.

Meal and Rest Breaks

Employers are required to provide their hourly employees with at least one 30 minute uninterrupted meal break for every 5 hours worked and a second 30 minute meal break for work shifts over 10 hours. Further, an employer must not require their employees to work or be “on call” during their lunch breaks. Under California law, an employee must be compensated one additional hour of pay at their regular pay rate for each day the employee is not provided with a timely, full, uninterrupted 30 minute lunch break.

California law further requires an employer to provide their hourly employees with a paid 10 minute rest break for every 4 hours worked. Rest breaks should be given as close to the middle of every 4 hour period as practically possible given the constraints of their job duties. Similar to meal breaks, an employee must be compensated an additional hour of pay, at the employee’s regular rate of pay, for each day a full, uninterrupted 10 minute rest break is not provided to their hourly employee.

Minimum Wages

Under California law, if an employee is compensated at a rate of pay below the State or local minimum wage, then the employee shall recover the difference between the minimum wage rate and the rate compensated. Further, employees paid below minimum wage are entitled to interest on the unpaid wages from the date of violation in addition to attorney fees and penalties for violating the law. 

Overtime Compensation

Hourly employees are entitled to compensation at a rate of time-and-half when they work shifts over eight (8) hours in one day or 40 hours in one work week. Hourly employees are also entitled to double their regular rate of pay when they work over twelve (12) hours in one day.

Waiting Time Penalties

If an employee voluntarily quits employment, then he/she is owed full due wages within seventy-two (72) hours. If an employee gives at least seventy-two (72) hours notice of their intention to quit, then they must be compensated at the time of termination. If an employer terminates employment, then the employee must be compensated at the time of termination. If they are not properly compensated at the time of separation from their employer, they may be entitled to recover penalties for the period the final wages remain unpaid.

Inadequate Wage Statements

An employer is required to provide their employees with accurate itemized wage statements. Wage statements must include the legal entity and address of the employer, total hours worked, overtime, gross wages earned, all deductions, and the employee’s name and last four digits of their social security number, among other things.

Employee Rights

There are many other wage and hour protections provided by California law, some of which provide for additional penalties and interest if violated. California provides some of the most employee friendly laws in the country; as such, every day in California an employee is forced to suffer deprivations of their employment and labor rights and privileges. If you believe you have been subject to wage and hour violations, it is imperative to contact an attorney at Solouki | Savoy, LLP immediately.