Workers in the United States are very fortunate, as their rights are strongly protected by labor laws. Among the most fundamental of these is the right to fair pay for all hours worked.
Federal regulations exist to ensure that employers offer fair compensation to their workers, and state laws are often enacted to provide even more protection. The Department of Industrial Relations documents labor laws for the State of California.
Minimum wage requirements
As of January 1, 2023, the minimum wage in California is $15.50, which is more than twice the federal minimum of $7.25. The cost of living varies widely throughout the state, so some cities and counties have established minimums that are higher than the state’s requirement.
A full-time work week is widely accepted to consist of 40 hours. This is usually divided into eight-hour shifts over the course of five workdays. Employees who put in over eight hours in a workday or 40 hours in a workweek are eligible for overtime pay. In most states, the overtime rate is one and a half times the regular hourly rate.
Meal and rest breaks
Employees should receive a 30-minute meal break when they work more than five hours. If they work more than ten hours, they are entitled to a second 30-minute meal break. Workers should also receive a 10-minute paid rest break per four-hour shift.
Report time pay
Employees must receive a clearly communicated work schedule without unpredictable or unscheduled changes. An employee who is prohibited from completing their scheduled hours after reporting to the job site may be eligible for reporting time pay.
When an employee leaves a job, whether voluntarily or involuntarily, their employer must promptly provide them with their final paycheck. Failure to do so can result in penalties for the employer.
State and federal wage and hour laws exist to provide fair compensation to all employees for their time and effort. Workers in all sectors should understand these laws so they can protect themselves against violations.