Filing a Wage and Hour Claim - California

Does California have state overtime laws that are different from federal law?

Under California law, employers must pay employees at a rate of one and one-half the employee's regular hourly wage for working more than eight and less than twelve hours in a workday or eight hours on the seventh consecutive workday of the workweek. Employers must pay double the employee's regular hourly wage for working more than twelve hours a day or more than eight hours on the seventh consecutive workday of the workweek.

Some employees are exempt from the overtime requirement. Employees earning more than $28,080 per year on a salary basis and spending more than half of their time engaged in administrative, professional, executive, computer professional, agricultural, motor carrier or outsides sales activities are exempt from the overtime requirement. Additionally, the following occupations are exempt under California law but not under federal law:

  • Participants in national service programs
  • Parent, spouse, child, or legally adopted child of the employer
  • Professional actors
  • Direct employees of the state or any county, incorporated city or town, or other municipal corporation
  • Residents managers of small homes for the aged

Additional information on California overtime law is available at http://www.dir.ca.gov/dlse/FAQ_Overtime.htm. You can read more about federal overtime law at http://www.workplacefairness.org/overtime.

Does California have a minimum wage that is different from federal law?

The current minimum wage in California is $9.00 per hour, which is higher than the federal minimum wage of $7.25.

Generally, employers cannot use other costs of employment to decrease the minimum wage required. Employers cannot use tips to reduce the minimum wage. Employers cannot decrease the minimum wage by the cost to provide and maintain uniforms. If an employee agrees voluntarily in writing, however, an employer can decrease the minimum wage by the cost of meals and lodging.

The following employees may be paid at a rate below the minimum wage:

  • Learners, employees who have had no similar or related experience in the position, may be paid 85% of the minimum wage
  • Camp employees may be paid 85% of the minimum wage
  • Disabled employees and employees of nonprofit sheltered workshops and rehabilitation facilities if a license has been acquired

The following employees are exempt from the minimum wage requirement:

  • Outside salespeople
  • An employer's parent, spouse, child or legally adopted child
  • Participants in an unpaid national service program such as AmeriCorps
  • Direct employees of the state or any county, incorporated city or town, or other municipal corporation

Additional information on California minimum wage law is available at http://www.dir.ca.gov/dlse/FAQ_MinimumWage.htm.

Does California have meal and rest break requirements, unlike federal law?

Under California law, nonexempt employees are entitled to a thirty minute meal break within the first five hours of work. Additionally, nonexempt employees must receive at least a ten-minute rest period for each four hours of work. Additional information on California meal and rest break requirements is available at http://www.dir.ca.gov/dlse/FAQ_MealPeriods.htm and http://www.dir.ca.gov/dlse/FAQ_RestPeriods.htm.

Does California have other labor standards laws that are different from federal law?

Unlike federal law, there are penalties for underpayment of wages, paying wages with insufficient funds, failure to provide meal or rest breaks, failure to provide one day's rest in seven, and failure to pay wages timely upon termination. Additionally, under California law, there are penalties for unlawful deductions from wages.

How do I file a wage/hour or labor standards claim in California?

You can file a wage claim with a local office of the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement (DLSE). This can be done by filling out an Initial Report or Claim Form available at http://www.dir.ca.gov/dlse/DLSE-Forms-Wage.htm. The filing should include as much information and documentation as possible, including the name, location, method of doing business of the employer, and any documents to support the claim. This process can be completed with or without an attorney.

Additional information on filing a wage claim is available at http://www.dir.ca.gov/dlse/HowToFileWageClaim.htm.

What are my time deadlines?

If you have a wage/hour claim, do not delay in contacting the DLSE to file a claim. There are strict time limits in which wage claims must be filed. In order for the agency to act on your behalf, you must file with the DLSE within three years from the date that the claim arose. Some penalties, however, are subject to a one year deadline.

As you might have other legal claims with shorter deadlines, do not wait to file your claim until your time limit is close to expiring. You may wish to consult with an attorney prior to filing your claim, if possible. Yet if you are unable to find an attorney who will assist you, it is not necessary to have an attorney to file your claim with the DLSE.

How can I or my attorney pursue a claim in court in California?

In California, employees can file a private lawsuit to recover unpaid wages, penalties, interest and attorney's fees and court costs.

Local DLSE offices

7718 Meany Ave.
Bakersfield, CA 93308
(661) 587-3060
(661) 859-2462

El Centro 1550 W. Main St.
El Centro, CA 92243
(760) 353-0607
(760) 353-2544

770 E. Shaw Avenue
Suite 222
Fresno, CA 93710
(559) 244-5340
(559) 248-8398

Long Beach 300 Oceangate
Suite 302
Long Beach, CA 90802
(562) 590-5048
(562) 491-0160

Los Angeles 320 W. Fourth Street
Suite 450
Los Angeles, CA 90013
(213) 620-6330
(213) 576-6227

1515 Clay Street
Suite 801
Oakland, CA 94612
(510) 622-3273
(510) 622-2660

2115 Civic Center Drive
Room 17
Redding, CA 96001
(530) 225-2655
(530) 229-0565

2031 Howe Avenue
Suite 100
Sacramento, CA 95825
(916) 263-1811
(916) 263-5378

1870 N. Main St.
Suite 150
Salinas, CA 93906
(831) 443-3041
(831) 443-3029

San Bernardino 464 W. Fourth Street
Room 348
San Bernardino, CA 92401
(909) 383-4334
(909) 889-8120

San Diego 7575 Metropolitan Dr.
Rm. 210
San Diego, CA 92108
(619) 220-5451
(619) 682-7221

San Francisco 455 Golden Gate Ave., 10th Floor
San Francisco, CA 94102
(415) 703-5300
(415) 703-5444

San Francisco--Headquarters 455 Golden Gate Avenue, 9th Floor
San Francisco, CA 94102
(415) 703-4810

San Jose 100 Paseo de San Antonio, Room 120
San Jose, CA 95113
(408) 277-1266
(408) 277-3711

Santa Ana 28 Civic Center Plaza
Room 625
Santa Ana, CA 92701
(714) 558-4910
(714) 558-4574

Santa Barbara 411 E. Canon Perdido, Room 3
Santa Barbara, CA 93101
(805) 568-1222
(805) 965-7214

Santa Rosa 50 "D" Street
Suite 360
Santa Rosa, CA 95404
(707) 576-2362
(707) 576-2459

31 E. Channel Street, Room 317
Stockton, CA 95202
(209) 948-7771
(209) 941-1906

Van Nuys 6150 Van Nuys Blvd.
Room 206
Van Nuys, CA 91401
(818) 901-5315
(818) 908-4556

Van Nuys (Entertainment Work Permits) 6150 Van Nuys Blvd.
Van Nuys, CA 91401
(818) 901-5484


This material was originally prepared by attorney Joseph Jaramillo and former law clerks Keia Cole and Adam Weiss of the law firm Goldstein, Demchak Baller Borgen and Dardarian, and was updated by Professor Douglas D. Scherer, of Touro College, Jacob D. Fuchsberg Law Center. Professor Scherer also serves as the Vice President of Workplace Fairness.