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California Wage and Hour Laws

Last updated 11/20/2019

State wage and hour laws include the minimum wage and various types of employee leave, in addition to overtime, meals, and breaks. Employee lawsuits against California employers frequently involve California wage and hour laws, particularly with respect to overtime, breaks, and meal periods. Also, nonexempt employees may not waive their right to overtime, while the law allows very limited exceptions to meal and break time requirements.

California law requires payment of one and a half times the regular rate for all hours worked in excess of eight in a single day, and twice the regular rate for all hours worked in excess of 12 in a single day. With respect to meal periods, employees must be relieved of all duties and be free to leave the premises for the entire 30-minute period required by law.

California Wage and Hour Laws: An Overview

The main provisions of California wage and hour laws are listed in the table below. See FindLaw's Wage and Hour Laws section to learn more.

Statute California Labor Code sec. 500-558
Minimum Wage

$11.00 for employers with 25 or fewer employees

$12.00 for employers with 26 or more employees


Any work in excess of eight (8) hours per day or 40 hours per week is considered overtime and must be paid at one and one-half times the regular hourly rate.

Any work in excess of 12 hours in one day must be paid at twice the regular hourly rate.

Meals and Breaks

Employees who work more than five consecutive hours (more than six for certain employees in the motion picture industry) must be provided with an unpaid, 30-minute meal period.

Employees must be provided with a 10-minute paid rest period for every four hours worked (in the middle of the work period, if possible).

Leave Vacation benefits are not required; paid sick leave is not required; holiday leave is not required (but holiday pay is); employers may not terminate or otherwise retaliate against employees who serve on a jury, but are not required to pay wages for those absences (and employee must use available vacation or personal leave).
Severance Pay Not required
Agency Department of Industrial Relations, Division of Labor Standards Enforcement
Penalties Initial violation: $50 fine for each employee for each pay period that violates wage and hour laws, in addition to back wages; $100 fine for each subsequent violation (plus back wages)

Note: State laws are always subject to change through the passage of new legislation, rulings in the higher courts (including federal decisions), ballot initiatives, and other means. While we strive to provide the most current information available, please consult an attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.

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California Wage and Hour Laws: Related Resources

Have Your California Wage and Hour Law Questions Answered by a Lawyer

It's likely that you'll have specific questions about how California wage and hour laws apply to you. If so, it's best to speak with an experienced employment lawyer in California who will be well-versed in the state's wage and hour laws and provide personalized legal advice.

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