Wage and Hour Laws in California | Current California Labor Laws

Minimum Wage

California’s current minimum wage rates are the following:

  • Employers with 26+ employees: $15.00/hour
  • Employers with 25 or fewer employees: $14.00/hour

Additionally, employers must follow federal minimum wage laws, including a federal minimum wage of $7.25. In California, employers can pay the state or federal minimum wage, depending on which pays employees more. Since California’s minimum wage is $14.00 minimum, this is the legal rate for employees.Visit our California minimum wage information page to learn more about minimum wage in California.

Related topic covered on other pages include:


California labor laws require an employer to pay overtime to employees, unless otherwise exempt, at the rate of:

  • one and a half (1½) times the employee’s regular rate of pay for all hours worked in excess of forty (40) hours in a workweek or eight (8) hours up to and including 12 hours in any workday, and for the first eight (8) hours worked on the 7th consecutive day of work in a workweek; and
  • two (2) times the employee’s regular rate or pay for all hours worked in excess of twelve (12) hours in any workday and for all hours worked in excess of eight on the 7th consecutive day of work in a workweek.

CA Dept. of Industrial Relations: Overtime.

Prevailing Wages

Under certain circumstances, employers in NY may be required to pay residents wage rates established by the federal or state prevailing wage rates and rules. The prevailing wage rates may be different from the state’s standard minimum wage rates.

Employees may be eligible for prevailing wages if they work on federal or state government or government-funded construction projects or perform certain federal or state government services. See the California Department of Industrial Relations: Public Works, Davis-Bacon and Related Acts, McNamara-O’Hara Service Contract Act (SCA), and Walsh-Healey Public Contracts Act (PCA) for more information about prevailing wages.

Meals and Breaks

California labor laws require that employers provide employees with a meal period of no less than a 30-minute when they work more than five (5) consecutive hours (more than six (6) hours for employees in the motion picture industry in specific situations). CA Dept. of Industrial Relations: Meal Periods. Unless the employee is relieved of all duties during the entire 30-minute meal period and is free to leave the employer’s premises, the meal period must be counted as hours worked and paid at the employee’s regular rate of pay.

California law only permits employers to provide an “on duty” meal period when the nature of the work prevents the employee from being relieved of all duty and when by written agreement between the employer and employee an on-the-job meal period is agreed to. CA Labor Code 512

Certain non-exempt employees must be provided with a net 10-minute paid rest period for every four (4) hours worked or major fraction thereof. Insofar as is practicable, the rest period should be in the middle of the work period. A rest period is not required for employees whose total daily work time is less than three and one half (3 1/2) hours. The rest period is counted as time worked and therefore, the employer must pay for such periods. CA Dept. of Industrial Relations: Rest Periods.

Nursing Mother Breaks

California labor laws require employers to provide employees who are nursing mothers with reasonable breaks times to express breast milk unless doing so would seriously disrupt the employers’ operations.  Employers may request employees who are nursing to take breaks to express milk when possible at the same time as other paid break periods. Employers are not required to pay employees for breaks to express milk if the breaks do not coincide with other paid breaks.

Employers must make reasonable efforts to provide nursing mother employees with private locations where nursing mothers may express breast milk. The locations must be in close proximity to the nursing mothers’ work areas. Toilet stalls do not meet the minimum standards for the nursing mothers location. Employers may ask nursing mothers to express breast milk at their normal work location if the normal work locations meets the minimum standard for nursing mother locations. 

CA Labor Code 1030; CA Dept. of Industrial Relations: Lactation Accommodation

Vacation Leave

Employers in California are not required to give employees paid or unpaid vacation benefits. However, if an employer has an established vacation leave policy, there are restrictions to consider.

One of the most important is that employers have to pay employees for all earned and accrued vacation upon employment separation, regardless of the employee’s reason for leaving.

Three other important things to note when it comes to vacation leave in California include:

  • Employers can cap how much employees earn from their vacation pay and their accrued vacation within a certain number of hours.
  • When an employment agreement ends, all earned but not taken vacation must be paid at termination.
  • It’s illegal for California employers to require employees to use their saved vacation before a specific date.

Visit our California vacation information page to learn more about vacation leave in California.

Sick Leave

In California, the law requires employers to give most employees sick leave. As an employee, you may also qualify for sick leave through California’s State Disability Insurance or the Paid Family Leave programs.

California employers could be required to offer extended unpaid sick leave based on the California Family Rights Act or Family and Medical Leave Act.

Visit our California sick leave information page to learn more about sick leave in California.

Holiday Leave

Private employers in California are not required to provide unpaid or paid holiday leave. Private employers can also require employees to work holidays without receiving premium pay (ex. 1.5x regular rate). Receiving premium pay only applies if the employee is working overtime on said holiday.

Employers can make alternative arrangements with employees when discussing an employment contract. If you have special policies outlined in said contract, your employer must comply with their established terms.

Visit our California holiday leave information page to learn more about holiday leave in California.

Jury Duty Leave

Employers in California do not have to pay employees missed wages for attending jury duty. They cannot penalize or terminate employees for taking time to serve on a trial jury if the employee provides reasonable notice.

Additionally, employees can use compensatory, personal, or vacation leave to respond to a jury summons.Visit our California jury duty leave information page to learn more about jury duty leave in California.

Voting Leave

California requires employers to give employees time off work to vote. This time must be before an employee’s shift begins or after it ends. Other agreements can be made between the employer and employee.

Employers are required to pay employees up to two hours for voting time. Employees must also give employers three days’ notice to take voting leave. Also, 10 days before an election, an employer must post a note so that workers can review the laws of their voting rights.Visit our California voting leave information page to learn more about voting leave in California.

Severance Pay

California labor laws do not require employers to provide employees with severance pay. If an employer chooses to provide severance benefits, it must comply with the terms of its established policy or employment contract.

No matter if you have large or a small business, a well-crafted employee handbook is beneficial in informing the company employees about your policies.

The employee handbook proves useful in an unexpected situation.


When applying for unemployment in California, prospective employees must meet various qualifications. If these qualifications are unmet, you will not receive benefits instead of working wages.

When submitting your application, you must consider the following:

  • Applicants must be partially or totally unemployed
  • Applicants must have earned enough wages to cover unemployment during their base period
  • Applicants must be ready and willing to work immediately if an opportunity arises
  • Applicants must be physically capable of working
  • Applicants must be available for work should an opportunity arise
  • Applicants must be unemployed through no fault of their own

In instances where you believe you have been misclassified as an independent contractor, you can still apply for unemployment. The Employment Development Department in California will determine your eligibility based on your submitted application.Visit California’s unemployment information page to learn more about unemployment in California.

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