California has long regarded the timely payment of employee wages as indispensable to the public welfare. As noted by the California Supreme Court, wages are not ordinary debts, because of the economic position of the average worker and his dependence on wages for the necessities of life for himself and his family, it is essential to the public welfare that he receive his pay when it is due. As a California employee, you have the right to be paid your wages in full and on time.
Almost all employees in California must receive the minimum wage as required by State law, whether they are paid by piece rate, by commission, by the hour, or by salary. The current minimum hourly wage in California for businesses with 26 or more employees is $10.50. For businesses with 25 or fewer employees it is $10 per hour. The minimum wage is an obligation of the employer and cannot be waived by any agreement, including collective bargaining agreements. An employer may not use an employee’s tips as a credit toward its obligation to pay the minimum wage.
California law requires that employees be paid overtime, at one and a half times their regular rate of pay, not only for work in excess of 40 hours in one work week but also for work in excess of eight hours in any given workday. Employees are also entitled to overtime at one-and-a-half times their regular rate of pay, for the first eight hours on the seventh day of work in any one work week. Any work in excess of 12 hours in one workday, or eight hours on the seventh workday in any one work week must be compensated at twice the employee’s regular rate of pay.
However, overtime laws do not apply to all workers and certain workers, such as domestic workers and farm workers, are covered by different overtime laws.
Exemptions to Overtime Wages
Some employees are exempt from overtime laws, such as executive, administrative and professional employees and outside salespersons. However, employers sometimes misclassify an employee as an exempt employee, either inadvertently or in a deliberate attempt to avoid paying overtime. When this happens, it is likely that the employee has not received all the compensation owed, such as overtime and double time wages.
Additionally, sometimes employees are misclassified as independent contractors. Independent contractors are not employees. The protections of the California Labor Code and wage orders do not govern independent contractor relationships. It is not enough that both parties agree that the work relationship will be limited to an independent contractor relationship. There are various tests for determining when an employer-employee relationship exists, but in general it boils down to the amount of control the employer exercises over the worker. If an employee has been misclassified as an independent contractor, s/he may be entitled to unpaid wages, overtime, and Labor Code penalties.
In California, employers are not required to provide any paid vacation or paid time off to their employees. However, employers who choose to offer vacation must follow certain guidelines. California law considers accrued vacation to be a form of wages that have already been earned by the employee. Among other things, this means that accrued vacation cannot expire and must be paid out to an employee upon termination or separation from the employer. The same rules apply to paid time off.
Sick time is not subject to the same rules as vacation. As of July 2015, California employers are required to provide a minimum number of paid sick days per year.
Deductions from pay
Except for withholdings required by law such as social security tax, your employer may not withhold or deduct wages from your pay. Common violations include deductions for uniforms or tools.
Wages Due Upon Termination of Employment
If your employer fires you, you must receive your final paycheck on your last day. If you are not paid when your job ends, you may be entitled to receive an additional payment of a day’s wages for each day your employer withholds your final paycheck, for up to 30 days.
Contact an Experienced Employment Lawyer
If you believe your employer has not paid you the minimum wage, or has failed to pay you earned wages, such as overtime, double time, and accrued vacation, contact us for a free consultation. We will determine whether your employer has violated California’s stringent labor laws and if so, we will help you recover the money you earned but were not paid.