California Employment Law Basics

California Employment Law Basics

California employment law covers a broad range of topics, but the underlying theme is that each piece of legislation is in place to protect workers in Glendale, Los Angeles and everywhere else in the state. The laws cover things like minimum wage, meal and rest breaks, and overtime pay, as well as salary classifications (contractor vs. employee) and several other aspects of working for pay in California.

California Employment Law: The Basics

Each of the laws that California employers must follow comes from the federal government, the state government, or local governments. When there’s a dispute about which law employers are supposed to follow, it usually comes down to the law that provides the broadest protections or benefits to employees. For example, the federal minimum wage law says that minimum wage is $7.25 per hour – but California’s minimum wage law says that it’s $10.50 per hour, so that’s the law courts will enforce (California’s law provides the broadest benefits to employees, in this case).

Minimum Wage

Employers must pay employees minimum wage or more, and they must pay the minimum wage for the state of California (not federal minimum wage).

This table shows California’s current minimum wage and its scheduled increases, which will go into effect on January 1 each year until 2023.

Year25 Employees or Fewer26 or More Employees


Meal and Rest Breaks

Employers in California have to provide workers with meal breaks and rest breaks. There are different requirements for each, but this table shows what employers must provide in each situation.

Shift LengthBreaks Mandated by Law
3.5 – 6 hours10 minute rest break
6 – 10 hoursTwo 10-minute rest breaks
5 hours +One 30-minute meal break
10 hours +Two 30-minute meal breaks


Overtime Pay

Many employees who work over a certain number of hours are entitled to overtime pay. The amount each person is entitled to is referred to as either time and a half or double time.

Time and a half is the employee’s regularly hourly rate of pay plus half the regular hourly rate (so if the employee’s hourly rate is $20 per hour, and he or she is entitled to time and a half, the employee will receive $30 per hour).

Double time is twice the employee’s hourly rate (so if the employee’s hourly rate is $20 per hour, and he or she is entitled to double time, the employee will receive $40 per hour).

This table shows when time and a half and overtime pay kick in for California employees.

Hours WorkedRate
8 or more per dayTime and a half
40 or more per workweekTime and a half
7th consecutive day in one workweekTime and a half
12 or more per dayDouble time
Over 8 hours on the 7th consecutive day in a workweekDouble time


Contractors vs. Employees

California employment law says that the way employees are paid and receive benefits in the state of California depends on their salary classification, whether they’re an employee or a contractor. A contractor is a person or company that undertakes a contract to provide materials or labor to perform a service or do a job, and an employee is a person employed for wages or a salary… but there are more differences between the two than that. (Learn more about the differences between contractors and employees now.)

Has Your Employer Violated Your Rights Under California Employment Law?

If you believe your employer has violated your rights or gone against California employment law, you could be entitled to financial compensation.

Call an experienced Glendale employment lawyer right now for a free employment law consultation on your case. We’re available at 818-617-9713 or 800-774-4163, and the sooner you get in touch with us, the sooner we can start to help you get the compensation you deserve.

Contact Us