Wages & Breaks

All too often, employers shortchange their workers by refusing to pay them what they’re legally due. In some cases, workers may not even know that they’ve been taken advantage of. Other times, workers may feel silenced because they fear retaliation--especially for those who are undocumented. The first step in asserting your rights is to know your rights.

Minimum Wage

As of January 1, 2013, workers in California have a right to be paid at least eight dollars ($8.00) per hour. Cal. Labor Code § 1182.12. With limited exceptions, no one may give up this right, or agree to work for less than the minimum wage. See Cal Lab Code §§ 219, 1194. For example, unlike some other states, there is no minimum wage exception for restaurant waitstaff. Waitstaff in California must be paid at least an hourly wage of $8.00 an hour, regardless of the tips they may receive.

However, there are some exceptions to the minimum wage. These include:

  • Outside salespersons, individuals who are the parent, spouse, or child of the employer, and apprentices regularly indentured under the State Division of Apprenticeship Standards. Minimum Wage Order (MW-2007).
  • Sheepherders. IWC Order 14-2007, §§ 10(F), (G), (H).
  • In some instances, mentally and physically disabled workers. Cal. Lab. Code §§1191-1191.5.

If you question whether a current or former employer paid you the wages you’re due, you have a right to inspect and make copies of that employer’s records of your payment and hours. Cal Lab Code § 226. If an employer fails to respond to your request within 21 days, the employer may face a $750 penalty. Cal Lab Code § 226.

Payment through Meals and Housing

Employers may pay some compensation in the form of food or lodging, but only if the worker voluntarily agrees and the agreement is in writing. If you agree to such an arrangement, an employer may only withhold the following (maximum) amounts from your other compensation, DIR Order MW-2007.:

  • For a one-person room, $37.63 per week.
  • For a shared room, $31.06 per week.
  • For a one-person apartment, $451.89 per month.
  • For an apartment shared with your partner, where both of you work for the same employer, $668.46 per month.
  • For breakfast, $2.90.
  • For lunch, $3.97.
  • For dinner, $5.34.
Overtime

If you work more than a certain number of hours in a day or week, you are entitled to a higher rate of pay for those additional hours. In general, if you work more than 8 hours in one day or more than 40 hours in one week, you have a right to be paid at a rate 1.5 times your regular wage for those additional hours. Cal Lab Code § 510.

In certain qualifying workplaces - where two-thirds of the employees have agreed to it by secret ballot - the workweek is 10 hours a day, but still 40 hours a week. In these situations, you are entitled to 1.5 times your regular rate for hours worked beyond 10 hours per day or 40 hours per week. Cal Lab Code §511. Those in a union may be exempt from overtime based on the terms of their collective bargaining agreement.

You have a right to be paid twice your regular rate for hours worked in excess of 12 hours in one day or in excess of 8 hours on the seventh day of a workweek. Cal Lab Code §§

Breaks

You are entitled to 10 minutes of rest for every 4 hours you work. Your employer must pay you for this rest time. 8 CCR 11010. You have a right to a 30 minute meal break for every 5 hours you work in one day. Cal Lab Code § 512. While your employer is not required to pay you during meal breaks, you are essentially “off work” during your meal breaks. Your employer cannot require you to perform job functions during your meal break, and if you are called back to work during your meal break, the time spent working does not count towards your break. 29 CFR 785.19.

If you believe your rights may have been violated regarding wages and breaks, please call our office for a free consultation at (323) 208-9171.

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