California Labor Laws 2024 | Wage and Hour Laws in California


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 state’s minimum wage information page to learn more about minimum wage in California.

Related topic covered on other pages include:


Overtime

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 (double time) 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.

Federal laws under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) state that employees are eligible for overtime if they work more than 40 hours in a workweek unless otherwise exempt. Standard overtime pay for employees is 1.5 times the regular rates of pay. See FLSA: Overtime for more information regarding overtime requirements.


Prevailing Wages

Under certain circumstances, employers in California 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 break 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 time 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

Under the California labor code and the Healthy Workplaces, Healthy Families Act of 2014, most employers are required to provide employees with paid sick leave. All employees who work in California for 30 or more days within a year from the commencement of employment are eligible to paid sick days under California’s paid sick leave law with a few exception.

California employees may use paid sick leave for the following purposes:

  • or diagnosis, care, or treatment of his or her own existing injury, illness, or health condition or the existing injuries, illnesses, or health conditions of a family member;
  • for the employee’s preventative care or the preventative care of a family member;
  • when he or she is a victim of domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking, and he or she is:
    • seeking to obtain any relief, including, but not limited to, a temporary restraining order, restraining order, or other injunctive relief to help ensure the health, safety, or welfare of the employee or his or her child;
    • seeking medical attention for any injuries;
    • obtaining services from a domestic violence shelter, program, or rape crisis center;
    • obtaining psychological counseling related to the experience(s);
    • participating in safety planning and taking other actions to increase safety from future domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking, including temporary or permanent relocation.

For purposes of the California sick leave law, a family member includes:

  • a child, regardless of age or dependency status, including a biological child, adopted child, foster child, stepchild, legal ward, or a child to whom the employee stands in loco parentis
  • a parent, including a biological parent, adoptive parent, foster parent, stepparent, or legal guardian of an employee or the employee’s spouse or registered domestic partner, or a person who stood in loco parentis when the employee was a minor child
  • a spouse
  • registered domestic partner
  • a grandparent
  • a grandchild
  • a sibling

Paid Family Leave

Under the California Family Rights Act (CFRA), employers with 5 or more employees must provide employees with up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave in a 12-month period for:

  • Bonding with a newborn, adopted child, or child placed for foster care
  • Caring for a family member with a serious health condition
  • The employee’s own serious health condition, including pregnancy disability or childbirth-related medical conditions
  • A qualifying exigency relating to a close family member’s military service

California employers may also be required to provide employees with extended unpaid leave under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). Under the FMLA, in addition to the 12 week benefit provided under the CFRA, employers may be required to allow employees up to 26 weeks to care for an ill or injured service member.

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


Leave for School Activities

In California, employers with 25 or more employees at the same location cannot discriminate against or discharge an employee for taking time off to participate in their child’s school activities. All eligible employees can take up to 40 hours per year to participate in their children’s school activities or address childcare emergencies.


Crime Victims Leave

Under California law, crime victim leave allows an employee to be safe from discrimination, retaliation, or dismissal due to taking work time off for crimes that they have suffered. This also includes time taken off to appear in court.


Domestic Violence Victim Leave

Under California law, employers may not retaliate or discriminate against an employee for leaving work due to obtaining domestic violence protection. Victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, etc., are allowed to take time off to seek medical attention and psychological counseling, obtain domestic violence services, or engage in safety planning.


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.


California Bereavement Leave Laws

Beginning on January 1, 2023, California labor laws require employers with five (5) or more employees to provide employees with up to five (5) days of bereavement leave (also called grievance leave) upon the death of a family member.


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.


Unemployment

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.



Other Topics and Resources

There are several other California labor laws governing the employers and their workplaces. Below are those topics and resources:

  • California child labor laws for children 17 years of age and younger including topics including work during school hours and summer hours, school days and non-school days, summer days of employment (usually June 1 to Labor Day), hour restrictions, work permits, and hazardous occupations.
  • The California Civil Rights Department enforces the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) that protects employees workplace civil rights and against discrimination and retaliation. Employees are also protected by federal discrimination laws enforced by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The state and federal discrimination laws offer employees protections and violations based on the following:
Disability (a physical or mental disability)Sex, including sexual harassmentGender expressionNational Origin
RaceSexual orientationReligionAncestry
CreedGender identityAge (40+)Pregnancy, childbirth, breastfeeding, and related medical conditions
ColorGenetic informationMarital statusMedical condition
Military statusVeteran statusRetaliationWhistleblower

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