Despite its progressive labor laws, California is a major source of wage and hour litigation. Every week, hundreds of California workers file lawsuits, accusing their employers of underpaying for overtime, denying payment entirely and threatening employees with retaliation if they complain. Is your employer stealing from you? We can help.
California Wage & Hour Violation Attorneys
While our attorneys are not licensed to practice law in the State of California, we regularly work with a national coalition of overtime lawyers who can assist employees across the nation, including in California. To learn more about your rights, contact our experienced wage and hour attorneys today for a free consultation. We can help you understand your legal options for no charge. Even better, our lawyers always work on a contingency-fee basis, which means that you only pay us when we secure compensation in your case.
Minimum Wage: 2017 & 2018
California’s general minimum wage, as of January 1, 2017, is $10.50 per hour. A rate of $10 per hour applies to businesses in the State with 25 or fewer employees. The 2017 minimum wage is just one step in a longer process, whereby California’s minimum wage is set to reach $15 per hour for all businesses and industries by 2023.
The State’s minimum wage will rise incrementally over the next five years. So on January 1, 2018, California’s minimum wage will become $11 per hour (for companies with 26 or more employees) or $10.50 (for companies with fewer than 25 employees).
An exception has been made for “learners” (apprentices who have no prior experience in an industry), who can be paid 85% of the current minimum wage, rounded to the nearest nickel, for their first 160 hours of employment. That would be $8.95 at companies with more than 25 employees and $8.50 at businesses with 25 or fewer employees. A “learner” under California law can be any age.
Similar exceptions exist for workers with physical or mental disabilities, along with workshops and rehab facilities that employ workers with disabilities. To take advantage of these latter exceptions, a license from the State’s Labor Standards Enforcement office is required.
Tipped Employees Entitled To Full Minimum Wage
Alongside its high minimum wage, California is one of the only States to have done away with a separate tipped minimum wage, according to the California Department of Industrial Relations. Federal law allows employers to pay a sub-minimum wage to workers who receive at least $30 per month in tips. California doesn’t. Tipped employees are entitled to the full minimum wage, $10.50 (or $10 at smaller employers), no matter how much they make in tips.
City & Municipal Minimum Wages
At least 37 cities in California have passed recent municipal ordinances to establish minimum wage requirements higher than both federal and state law. While many of these municipal rules are complex, workers are always entitled to the highest minimum wage mandated by law. City ordinances override both California State and federal laws.
- Berkeley – $13.75 per hour – effective October 1, 2017
- Cupertino – $12 per hour – increases to $13.50 on January 1, 2018
- El Cerrito – $12.25 per hour – increases to $13.60 on January 1, 2018
- Emeryville – $15.20 (large employers); $14 (smaller employers) – effective July 1, 2017
- Los Altos – $12 per hour – effective January 1, 2017
- Los Angeles – $12 per hour – effective July 1, 2017
- Malibu – $12 per hour – effective July 1, 2017
- Milpitas – $11 per hour – increases to $12 on January 1, 2018
- Mountain View – $13 per hour – increases to $15 on January 1, 2018
- Oakland – $12.86 per hour – effective January 1, 2017
- Palo Alto – $12 per hour – increases to $13.50 on January 1, 2018
- Pasadena – $12 per hour – effective July 1, 2017
- Richmond – $12.30 per hour – increases to $13.41 on January 1, 2018
- San Diego – $11.50 per hour – increase pegged to Consumer Price Index on January 1, 2019
- San Francisco – $14 per hour – effective July 1, 2017
- San Jose – $12 per hour – increases to $13.50 on January 1, 2018
- San Leandro – $12 per hour – effective July 1, 2017
- San Mateo – $12 per hour – increases to $13.50 on January 1, 2018
- Santa Clara – $11.10 per hour – increases to $13 on January 1, 2018
- Santa Monica – $12 (large employers); $10.50 (smaller employers) – effective July 1, 2017
- Sunnyvale – $13 per hour – increases to $15 on January 1, 2018
As should be clear from the list, minimum wages in California are in a state of flux. Most of the cities we mentioned are working their way toward $15 per hour over the course of several years. Workers should expect the minimum wage in their municipality to change annually, but don’t assume that your employer will follow these wage increases so closely. Make sure that your business is paying you the current minimum wage mandated by city ordinance.
Also be aware that the minimum wage ordinances are often more complicated than we’ve presented to you on this page. As just one example, Santa Monica and Emeryville have both set two minimum wages, depending on a company’s size. But the cities define large and small employers in different ways. Always check with your own city’s government website to stay up-to-date on the wage regulations that affect you.
California Overtime Law
California’s overtime laws are also unique. As in federal law, California State codes say eligible employees should be paid time-and-a-half for all hours worked beyond 40 in a week. But California also requires the payment of daily overtime wages, according to a rather complex set of State laws. An employee becomes entitled to receive overtime wages, at time-and-a-half, after working:
- more than 8 hours in a single workday
- first eight hours worked on the seventh consecutive day of work in a single week
Work even longer hours? Then you become entitled to double time, or twice your normal rate. California state law mandates double time payment for hours:
- over 12 in a single workday
- beyond eight on the seventh consecutive day of work in a single week
To say that California is progressive when it comes to wages is an understatement. No other State, even New York, has overtime laws that entitle employees to so much extra compensation for their long hours. But California is also notable for being the home of an outsized number of wage and hour violators, businesses that steal from their employees by breaking federal, State and city labor laws. In legal circles, we call this problem “wage theft.”
Fight Back Against Wage Theft
Employers regularly pay their workers sub-minimum wages, deny them overtime wages and create elaborate pay schemes to hide their illegal activity. Millions of workers are stolen from every day by unscrupulous businesses. Low-wage workers and undocumented employees are most likely to become the victims of wage theft. And, while it may seem surprising, neither California nor federal law care about your immigration status, at least where wage and hour laws are concerned. Just like documented workers, undocumented workers have a right to the minimum wage and overtime pay in California. Undocumented workers also have the right to file an unpaid wage lawsuit against their employer.