Wage and hour laws are created to give employers guidelines as to how much their employees may work within a given time frame and how they must be compensated for work performed. It is important that all employers familiarize themselves with state and federal guidelines to ensure they remain on the right side of the law.
Minimum Wage in California
As of Jan 1, 2016, the minimum wage in California is $10 per hour. This exceeds the current federal minimum wage of $7.25 by $2.75.
Minimum Wage of Tipped Workers: Though some states allow employers to pay a lower hourly wage to workers who earn regular tips, California is not among them. Thus, both tipped and non-tipped employees in the state must be paid at least $10 per hour.
Does Minimum Wage Apply to Me: Nearly all of California’s employees are covered under the state’s minimum wage laws, although there are exceptions. Outside salespersons and parents, spouses or children of the employer are among California’s exempt employees. For more about exemptions, contact the California Department of Industrial Relations.
When Are Raises Required: Neither California state laws nor federal regulations dictate that state employers must grant their employees raises. Whether to do so is generally left up to the employer.
Work Hours in California
Most of California’s employees are not limited to working a particular number of hours in a day or week, although there are some exceptions. Children, union workers and those employed in jobs where safety is an issue, such as airline pilots, may face additional work-hour regulations.
Paying Overtime: Both in California and federally, those who work more than 40 hours in a standard workweek must receive overtime compensation. Federally, employees must be paid at a rate of time-and-a-half for any hours worked in a week over 40. In California, the time-and-a-half rate applies if one works more than eight, but less than 12, hours in a day. Employees must then be paid double for any hours worked in a day beyond 12. Exemptions to California’s overtime laws exist, however, and they include executive, administrative and professional employees, among others. Contact the California Department of Industrial Relations for additional information about overtime-exempt employees.
Guaranteed Breaks and Meals: Generally, California employers must grant employees who work more than five hours 30-minute unpaid breaks, unless the workday is less than six hours and both parties agree to waive the break. Those who work more than four hours at a time are entitled to a paid, 10-minute rest period for every four hours worked. Additionally, state employers are bound by law to provide “reasonable” break periods for nursing mothers and a clean, non-bathroom space where they may privately nurse or pump breast milk.
Paid Time Off and Sick Pay: California’s employers are not required by law to offer paid vacation. However, as of July 1, 2015, state employers must offer a minimum number of paid sick days per year, and they must institute paid sick leave policies that adhere to particular guidelines.
Notice Period for Employee Termination: Under California law, state employers may terminate the relationship with an employee at any time and for any reason. There are, however, some exceptions. For example, one cannot be terminated due to race, color or religious beliefs.
Plant Closings & Layoffs: The California Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act (WARN) builds upon the requirements set in place by the federal WARN Act. Under California’s law, employers with more than 75 employees (under federal law, employers must have more than 100 employees) must give written notice at least 60 days prior to any plant closings or mass layoffs. California’s laws apply to layoffs that affect more than 50 employees within a 30-day period. It should also be noted that California’s WARN law applies to part-time employees as well as full time, while federal WARN laws apply only to those employed full time.
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