The minimum wage refers to the minimum hourly rate of pay that employers must pay their employees. There are hourly minimum wage rates established by the federal and state governments. In addition, local jurisdictions such as counties and cities also set their minimum wage rates. Employers who fail to pay their workers the correct minimum wage commit wage theft, which is a crime.
If you are an employee in California who is not being paid the correct minimum wage, you are entitled to compensation for your losses. It is important that you reach out to an experienced wage and hour lawyer who can walk you through the state's minimum wage laws and help protect your rights.
What is the Minimum Wage in California?
The statewide minimum wage in California in 2023 is $15.50 per hour. California's minimum wage law supersedes the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour. If you work in the state of California, you are entitled to receive the higher statewide minimum wage of $15.50 per hour.
It is important to note that there are a number of cities in California that have a higher minimum wage than the state minimum. For example, in 2023, the minimum wage is $16.04 in Los Angeles, $16.99 in Berkeley and San Francisco and $17.99 in San Jose. If you work in a city where the minimum wage is higher than the state, you must be paid the higher local minimum wage. Employees in California may not agree to receive a wage lower than the minimum wage. Minimum wage laws also may not be waived by an agreement between employers and employees.
Are There Exceptions to the Minimum Wage Law?
California laws for minimum wage don't apply to the following employees:
- Student employees, camp/program counselors who need to be paid only 85% of the minimum wage
- Those who participate in national service programs such as AmeriCorps
- Workers who are classified as independent contractors rather than full-time employees
- An "outside salesperson" or an employee who spends more than half of their working hours away from the employer's place of business engaged in sales
- "Exempt employees" who earn at least twice the minimum wage and are exempt from California wage and hour laws relating to overtime and rest/meal breaks
It must be noted that the law now requires disabled employees to be paid the full minimum wage.
What Can You Do If Your Employer Does Not Pay You Minimum Wage?
Minimum wage violations are the most common wage and hour violations in California. If your employer had failed to pay to the correct minimum wage, you may be able to hold your employer liable and recover the wages that have been stolen from you in addition to other damages. You can also file a wage claim with the California Labor Commissioner's Office. It is important to note that any employee in California, regardless of immigration status, can file a wage theft complaint. You can do this online, via email, postal mail or in person at a local office.
Once you file a complaint, the Labor Commissioner's Office will launch an investigation. Often, the office will hold a conference where you and your employer will have an opportunity to resolve unpaid wages issues. You can also file a minimum wage lawsuit against your employer in civil court. Under California law, those who have been victims of wage theft are entitled to recover all unpaid wages owed including interest as well as attorney's fees and court costs.
Statute of Limitations for Minimum Wage Claims in California
There are limitations on how long a California minimum wage violation can be filed after the violation has occurred. Typically, such claims must be filed within three years of the reported incident. The time limit may be extended to four years in cases where a written employment agreement has been violated.
It is Illegal for Employers to Retaliate
If you have not been paid the correct minimum wage, it is well within your rights to report your employer's unlawful activity and seek compensation for your unpaid wages. It is against the law for employers to harass, discriminate or retaliate against workers who have exercised their rights under the California labor laws by filing a minimum wage claim or lawsuit. Employers are prohibited from retaliating against workers who simply bring an issue to their employer's attention or those who formally lodge a complaint with a state or federal agency. You can learn more about filing an unpaid wage claim here.
Our California Employment Lawyers Can Help
Challenging your employer can be stressful and intimidating, but it is often also necessary. The LA unpaid wages lawyers at Kingsley & Kingsley Lawyers can put our knowledge, experience and resources to work to help you prepare a strong case to help recover the money you have rightfully earned. We will fight for justice on your behalf. We can help answer any questions you may have about California's minimum wage laws. If you believe your rights have been violated, call us at (818) 408-6708 to schedule your free consultation and case evaluation.