The term “minimum wage” refers to the lowest hourly rate that workers must be paid for their efforts. Employees must be paid the highest minimum wage that has been set by the jurisdiction in which they operate unless an exception applies.

What is the current minimum wage in California, and how does it change if you are not paid the required amount? What options do you have?

Table of Contents (click to jump to a specific section)

California Minimum Wage Laws
What Is The Distinction Between Local, State, and Federal Minimum Wage?
Can The Minimum Wage Be Waived?
When Doesn’t California Minimum Wage Apply?
How To Enforce The Minimum Wage in California
What is the procedure that is followed after I file a wage claim?
Minimum Wage Laws in California and Kirakosian Law

California Minimum Wage Laws

The minimum wage in California is defined by state legislation (although certain groups of employees, which are addressed below, are exempt or entitled to a lower wage). Cities and counties in California have the power to set a higher minimum wage.

In 2022, California’s minimum wage is $14 per hour for employers with 25 or fewer workers and $15 per hour for larger businesses. The federal minimum wage is $7.25 per hour. It applies to covered employees in the United States, but not in states that have established a higher minimum wage, such as California (for example).

Most employees in California are entitled to the wage set by California’s minimum wage law, which is higher than the federal rate.

What Is The Distinction Between Local, State, and Federal Minimum Wage?

Employers in California are required to pay both the federal and state minimum wages, although some exceptions apply. Local governments (cities and counties) can also enact minimum wage rates, which numerous cities have done in recent years.

An employer in this context is a wide term that refers to anyone who controls the pay, hours, or working conditions of any individual. Individual employers, businesses, charities, and state or local governments are included.

When the rules of various authorities conflict, the employer must follow the more beneficial one; that is, the one that is most advantageous to the employee. As a result, because California’s existing law sets a higher minimum wage baseline than does the federal legislation, all employers in the state must pay the higher state rate.

Employees must also be paid the local wage that is higher than the state or federal minimum wage rates if a local entity (city or county) has established a higher minimum wage. The California minimum wage law applies to everyone who works in or resides in the state, regardless of their immigration status. The minimum wage legislation also protects undocumented workers working in California who do not have a green card.

Can The Minimum Wage Be Waived?

The minimum wage cannot be waived, even in cases of dire financial hardship faced by the employer. An employer can only apply for a waiver if they can prove that they are unable to pay the required minimum wage and that doing so would not adversely affect the health or safety of their employees.

May an employee agree to work for less than the minimum wage?

No. The employer’s duty to pay the minimum wage is not affected by any labor contract, including collective bargaining agreements. Any legislation designed to safeguard workers may not be waived by agreement between the employer and employee.

Is the minimum wage the same for both adult and minor employees?

Yes. When it comes to the minimum wage, there is no distinction made between adults and children.

I work as a waiter in a restaurant. Is it legal for my employer to use my gratuities/tips as a credit toward the requirement to pay me the minimum wage?

No. An employer may not use an employee’s tips as a credit toward its obligation to pay the minimum wage.

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When Doesn’t California Minimum Wage Apply?

In some cases, the minimum wage in California does not apply or employees may be paid less than the statutory rate.

  • EXECUTIVES, ADMINISTRATIVE STAFF, AND PROFESSIONALS

Executive, administrative, and professional workers are not covered by California’s minimum wage laws. However, the exemption of these sorts of occupations from minimum wage legislation is quite meaningless.

An employee must be paid a salary that would put their equivalent hourly “wages” well above the minimum wage in order to fulfill the legal definition of executive, administrative, or professional.

If accountants, for example, are paid significantly more than the state minimum wage of $7.35 per hour, and they work 40 hours per week, their monthly salary must be at least twice that amount.

If the minimum wage is $11 per hour, the monthly salary necessary to qualify as an executive, administrative, or professional employee would be $3,813 (two times $11 per hour divided by twelve months).

  • LEARNERS

Employees in occupations that do not have comparable or related experience may be paid at a rate of 85 percent of the minimum wage, rounded to the nearest nickel. For the first 160 hours of employment, this only applies. After 160 hours of employment, their salaries must be raised to 100% of the minimum wage.

  • DISABLED

The Division of Labor Standards and Enforcement in the State of California may give licenses to employees whose “earning capacity is impaired by physical disability or mental deficiency at less than the minimum wage.” This license must be applied for jointly by the employer and the employee, or the employee’s representative. The Labor Commission regulates the minimum wage that must be paid in these

  • INDEPENDENT CONTRACTORS

Minimum wage does not apply to independent contractors. Because independent contractors are not considered employees by definition, they are not required to be paid minimum wage.

A court will look to the amount of direction and control that the contracting entity has over the worker’s work, even if the employer and employee enter into an agreement that expressly states that the employee is a contractor.

How To Enforce The Minimum Wage in California

Employees have two choices when an employer refuses to pay them the legal minimum wage:

  • They can file a wage claim with a federal or state administrative agency, or
  • They can file a civil lawsuit.⁠

An employee (or their lawyer) must weigh a variety of factors in deciding which option to pursue. The value of the claim, whether the employer will likely dispute it, and whether state or federal law should be applied are all important considerations.

If the employer did not pay the required minimum wage under California, but did follow federal law, , an employee may be restricted to making a claim under California law rather than federal. If both state and federal laws were broken, the employee must determine which law offers a stronger remedy.

 

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What is the procedure that is followed after I file a wage claim?

After your claim is finished and submitted with a local Division of Labor Standards Enforcement (DLSE) office, it will be assigned to a Deputy Labor Commissioner who will evaluate the claim based on the circumstances and information provided before deciding how to proceed.

A referral to a conference or hearing, or the claim being dismissed, is one of the initial actions that might be taken in response to a claim.

If the parties agree to hold a conference, they will be notified by mail of the date, time, and location of the meeting. The objective of the meeting is to determine whether the claim is valid and, if so, whether it may be resolved without a hearing. If the problem isn’t resolved at the conference, it may be referred to a hearing or dismissed because of lack of evidence.

Employees who do not receive a full minimum wage payment have the right to bring their employer’s noncompliance to light and request for total compliance with their minimum wage rights. Employers are not permitted to retaliate against staff who ask for a minimum wage.⁠

Employees are also protected against retaliation if they file a complaint with an administrative agency or start legal action.⁠ This implies that an employee cannot be penalized, terminated, or treated unethically for going above and beyond to earn a minimum wage.

Minimum Wage Laws in California and Kirakosian Law

Having an attorney who understands the law and understands what to do when a company or employer has violated your rights is a major asset. Too many workers allow themselves to be taken advantage of by large corporations and think they have no legal recourse. However, Mr. Kirakosian has the background and knowledge to provide a high level of legal representation in any “David vs. Goliath” battle.

Kirakosian Law APC has taken on companies and corporations that wrongly engage in discrimination, retaliation or unfair labor practices to ensure workers’ rights are protected.

If we can’t reach an appropriate settlement through mediation, we are fully prepared to take civil cases to trial.

*The information presented in this blog is not intended to constitute legal advice. It contains only general information about legal matters and there is no guarantee that we can obtain similar results or that the information presented on this site should be interpreted as law or legal advice. All representations and warranties, express or implied, and all liability or responsibility in respect of actions taken or not taken based on any information contained on this sit should not be relied upon and are hereby expressly disclaimed.