California state and federal employment laws require employers to pay employees not less than minimum wage and pay overtime for work over a certain number of hours. Under federal law, employers who fail to properly compensate employees are liable to employees for double damages.1
Below, our California labor law attorneys discuss the following frequently asked questions about minimum wage and overtime laws for California employees:
- 1. What are the damages for FLSA violations?
- 2. Who is covered by the FLSA?
- 3. How do I know if my employer violated the FLSA?
- 4. Can I sue my employer for not paying minimum wage or paying overtime?
If you have further questions after reading this article, we invite you to contact us at Shouse Law Group.
The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) is a federal law that establishes the federal rules for minimum wage, overtime pay, and other regulations affecting workers. The FLSA also provides for damages when employers violate FLSA laws.2
Any employer who violates provisions of the FLSA overtime or minimum wage laws is liable to the employee or employees affected in the amount of their unpaid minimum wages or overtime compensation. In addition, the employer may be liable for an additional equal amount as liquidated damages.3
Example: Nancy works as a receptionist at a gym and often works 12-hour shifts during the weekends. Nancy’s employer falsely told her that her job is not eligible for overtime pay. Nancy later finds out that her employer was lying to her about overtime.
Nancy calculates that she is owed $2,000 for unpaid overtime compensation. If Nancy sues her employer, she can seek damages of $4,000 ($2,000 for unpaid overtime compensation and an equal amount of $2,000 as liquidated damages).
The FLSA covers almost all employees. Specifically, the FLSA applies to employers who are engaged in interstate commerce or have total annual sales of $500,000 or more. Even if it seems like your employer may not be covered under this definition, most companies are considered to be included if they use the mail, internet, or phone lines.4
While most employees are covered by the FLSA, not all employees are eligible for overtime pay and minimum wage laws.
Employees who are exempt from the federal minimum wage may include:
- Seasonal and recreational establishment employees
- Companions for the elderly
- Babysitters on a casual basis
- Fishing employees
- Federal criminal investigators
- Homeworkers making wreaths
- Newspaper delivery workers
- Switchboard operators5
Similarly, employees who are exempt from the federal maximum hour and overtime laws may include:
- Airline employees
- Amusement/recreational employees in national parks
- Boat or aircraft salespeople
- Live-in domestic employees
- Fishing employees
- Fruit and vegetable transportation employees
- Livestock auction workers
- Motion picture theater employees
- Taxicab drivers
- Railroad employees
- Newspaper delivery workers6
Exempt employees are those who are not subject to wage/hour laws, including overtime, minimum wage, and laws requiring meal and rest breaks. Exempt employees in California may include salaried executives, professionals, and administrative employees, or so-called “white-collar” employees.7
Under the FLSA, to qualify for an employee exemption, the employee must meet a salary test, salary basis test, and duties test, based on the type of job. The job title alone does not determine exempt status.8
To qualify for an exemption, the employee must be compensated on a salary basis at a rate not less than $455 per week. Additionally, the employee’s specific job duties must meet the requirements of the Department of Labor’s regulations.9
An employer may be violating the FLSA if a non-exempt employee is not paid for overtime work or the non-exempt employee is paid less than the minimum hourly wage.
The federal minimum wage is $7.25 per hour. However, states also have minimum wage laws. When a state law provides greater employee protections, employers must pay employees at the higher rate.10
For most employees in California, the state minimum wage overrides the federal minimum wage. As of 2021, the statewide minimum wage in California is:
- $14.00 per hour for employers with 26 or more employees; and
- $13.00 per hour for employers with 25 or fewer employees.11
Moreover, California’s minimum wage is set to increase every year until 2023.12
Under the FLSA, non-exempt employees must receive overtime pay for hours worked in excess of 40 hours in a workweek at a rate of not less than one and one-half (1 ½) times their regular rates of pay.13
The overtime rates apply on a workweek basis. The workweek is a fixed and regularly recurring period of 168 hours (seven consecutive 24-hour periods). This may or may not match up with a calendar week.14
California provides additional overtime protections. Under California labor laws, non-exempt employees who are not part of an alternative workweek schedule earn overtime if they work more than:
- eight (8) hours in a single workday,
- forty (40) hours in a single workweek, or
- six (6) days in a single workweek.15
Overtime pay generally consists of time and a half–that is, one and a half the California worker’s regular hourly rate of pay. However, an employee is paid double the regular hourly pay rate for
- any work in excess of twelve (12) hours in a single workday, and
- any work in excess of eight (8) hours on the seventh day of a workweek.16
California employees may file a wage and hour lawsuit against employers for failing to pay the minimum wage or failing to pay overtime. The FLSA provides a right of action for violations of federal labor laws. This includes failure to pay non-exempt employees the federal minimum wage or failure to pay for overtime.17
In some cases, an employer who violates the FLSA will be violating the law involving a number of underpaid or unpaid employees. Successful wage and hour class action lawsuits often involve failure to provide overtime pay for work over the maximum number of workweek hours.
The FLSA provides for liquidated damages for unpaid minimum wages and unpaid overtime compensation. This means that a successful lawsuit for minimum wage or overtime violations would result in damages that amount to double the unpaid compensation.
In addition to damages awarded to the plaintiff or plaintiffs, in a successful minimum wage or overtime lawsuit, the court may also allow reasonable attorney’s fees and costs to be paid by the employer.18
There is a strong presumption in favor of doubling damages. However, double damages may not be awarded if the employer shows that the violation was in good faith, or the employer had reasonable grounds for believing the act or omission was not a violation of the FLSA.19
In addition to federal protections, California employees can file a lawsuit against their employer for violations of California labor laws. In general, California labor laws provide additional protections for employees. In most cases, an employee may prefer to file a claim against their employer under California labor laws.
Call us for help…
For questions about federal minimum wage and overtime rules or to discuss your case confidentially with one of our skilled California labor and employment attorneys, do not hesitate to contact us at Shouse Law Group.
We have local employment law offices in and around Los Angeles, San Diego, Orange County, Riverside, San Bernardino, Ventura, San Jose, Oakland, the San Francisco Bay area, and several nearby cities.
- 29 U.S.C. 216(b) — Damages; right of action; attorney’s fees and costs; termination of right of action. (“Any employer who violates the provisions of section 206 or section 207 of this title shall be liable to the employee or employees affected in the amount of their unpaid minimum wages, or their unpaid overtime compensation, as the case may be, and in an additional equal amount as liquidated damages.”)
- 29 U.S.C. 203 — Definitions. (“(s)(1) “Enterprise engaged in commerce or in the production of goods for commerce” means an enterprise that—(A)(i) has employees engaged in commerce or in the production of goods for commerce, or that has employees handling, selling, or otherwise working on goods or materials that have been moved in or produced for commerce by any person; and (ii) is an enterprise whose annual gross volume of sales made or business done is not less than $500,000 (exclusive of excise taxes at the retail level that are separately stated).”)
- 29 U.S.C. 213(a) — Minimum wage and maximum hour requirements. Exemptions to the minimum wage and maximum hour provisions of the FLSA.
- 29 U.S.C. 213(a) — Minimum wage and maximum hour requirements. (“The provisions of sections 206 (except subsection (d) in the case of paragraph (1) of this subsection) and 207 of this title shall not apply with respect to—(1) any employee employed in a bona fide executive, administrative, or professional capacity.“) See also 8 C.C.R 11040 (“1. Applicability of Order This order shall apply to all persons employed in professional, technical, clerical, mechanical, and similar occupations whether paid on a time, piece rate, commission, or other basis, except that: (A) Provisions of sections 3 through 12 shall not apply to persons employed in administrative, executive, or professional capacities.”)
- 29 C.F.R. 541.2 — Job titles insufficient. (“A job title alone is insufficient to establish the exempt status of an employee. The exempt or nonexempt status of any particular employee must be determined on the basis of whether the employee’s salary and duties meet the requirements of the regulations in this part.”)
- 29 C.F.R. 541.0 — Introductory statement. (“(a) Section 13(a)(1) of the Fair Labor Standards Act, as amended, provides an exemption from the Act’s minimum wage and overtime requirements for any employee employed in a bona fide executive, administrative, or professional capacity (including any employee employed in the capacity of academic administrative personnel or teacher in elementary or secondary schools), or in the capacity of an outside sales employee, as such terms are defined and delimited from time to time by regulations of the Secretary, subject to the provisions of the Administrative Procedure Act. Section 13(a)(17) of the Act provides an exemption from the minimum wage and overtime requirements for computer systems analysts, computer programmers, software engineers, and other similarly skilled computer employees.”)
- 29 U.S.C. 206 — Minimum wage. Employees engaged in commerce (“Every employer shall pay to each of his employees who in any workweek is engaged in commerce or in the production of goods for commerce, or is employed in an enterprise engaged in commerce or in the production of goods for commerce, wages at the following rates: (1) except as otherwise provided in this section, not less than…$7.25 an hour…“)
- See California Department of Industrial Relations, Minimum Wage.
- Labor Code 1182.12 LC — Minimum wage; scheduled increases; adjusted minimum wage; temporary suspension of increases.
- 29 U.S.C. 207 — Maximum hours. (“(a) Employees engaged in interstate commerce; additional applicability to employees pursuant to subsequent amendatory provisions. (1) Except as otherwise provided in this section, no employer shall employ any of his employees who in any workweek is engaged in commerce or in the production of goods for commerce, or is employed in an enterprise engaged in commerce or in the production of goods for commerce, for a workweek longer than forty hours unless such employee receives compensation for his employment in excess of the hours above specified at a rate not less than one and one-half times the regular rate at which he is employed.”)
- See United States Department of Labor, Wage and Hour Division, Overtime Pay.
- Labor Code 510 LC — Day’s work; overtime; commuting time. (“(a) Eight hours of labor constitutes a day’s work. Any work in excess of eight hours in one workday and any work in excess of 40 hours in any one workweek and the first eight hours worked on the seventh day of work in any one workweek shall be compensated at the rate of no less than one and one-half times the regular rate of pay for an employee. Any work in excess of 12 hours in one day shall be compensated at the rate of no less than twice the regular rate of pay for an employee. In addition, any work in excess of eight hours on any seventh day of a workweek shall be compensated at the rate of no less than twice the regular rate of pay of an employee. Nothing in this section requires an employer to combine more than one rate of overtime compensation in order to calculate the amount to be paid to an employee for any hour of overtime work. The requirements of this section do not apply to the payment of overtime compensation to an employee working pursuant to any of the following: (1) An alternative workweek schedule adopted pursuant to Section 511. (2) An alternative workweek schedule adopted pursuant to a collective bargaining agreement pursuant to Section 514. (3) An alternative workweek schedule to which this chapter is inapplicable pursuant to Section 554.”)
- See endnote 1 above.
- 29 U.S.C. 216(b) — Damages; right of action; attorney’s fees and costs; termination of right of action. (“The court in such action shall, in addition to any judgment awarded to the plaintiff or plaintiffs, allow a reasonable attorney’s fee to be paid by the defendant, and costs of the action.”)
- 29 U.S.C. 260 — Liquidated damages. (“In any action commenced prior to or on or after May 14, 1947 to recover unpaid minimum wages, unpaid overtime compensation, or liquidated damages, under the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, as amended 29 U.S.C. 201 et seq., if the employer shows to the satisfaction of the court that the act or omission giving rise to such action was in good faith and that he had reasonable grounds for believing that his act or omission was not a violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, as amended, the court may, in its sound discretion, award no liquidated damages or award any amount thereof not to exceed the amount specified in section 216 of this title.”)