California Employee Rights 2024 Explained – Workers Know Your Rights

Frank S. Clowney III

California employment law ensures that all employees are given minimum protections regarding pay and breaks. These employee rights are important for workers to understand so that employers cannot treat them unfairly without consequence. However, the things employees are used to receiving may not be required under the law, such as vacation time. Also, some things, like overtime, are not given to every employee. Contact a California employment lawyer to find out your rights.

Employers must compensate their employees with a sum that at least equals minimum wage in most cases. Unless exempt, employers must also pay overtime equal to 150 percent of the usual wage for every hour in excess of eight in one day or 40 hours per week. Employees must get 200 percent of their usual wage for any work that exceeds 12 hours in one day. Many employers offer holiday pay, but time off for holidays, sick days, or vacations is not required by law.

Employers who do offer paid vacations must include compensation for any time not taken in final paychecks when employees quit. This does not apply to unused sick days if offered by employers. As long as employees give at least 72 hours’ notice before quitting, they are entitled to any unpaid wages on their last day. Anyone who is fired or laid off is entitled to their wages at that time. In most cases, employers must also provide a paid 10-minute break per four hours of work and an unpaid half-hour break per five hours of work.

What Are the Most Common Employee Rights Violations in California?

Failure to pay minimum wage: California employers are required to at least pay the federal minimum wage to their employees. This currently sits at $15.50 per hour. Any employer who is caught violating this basic employment law requirement will be held accountable, which could include back-paying all employees for money they rightfully earned.

Employee misclassification: Instances where an employer has purposely misclassified an employee can be trickier to uncover but not impossible. An example of this happening is when an employer classifies an employee as an independent contractor to avoid having to pay for their healthcare benefits or any overtime hours.

Failure to offer and pay for breaks: California law requires that all non-exempt employees are entitled to one 30-minute meal break if they are working longer than five consecutive hours in one day. While this break is not required to be paid, it is required that it is uninterrupted without any expectation for the employee to complete any work. In addition to a meal break, employers must also offer two 10-minute rest breaks per 8-hour shift. These shorter 10-minute breaks must be paid.

Taking illegal deductions from wages: Employers are not allowed to make any deductions from their employee’s wages that would bring their earnings below the minimum wage. For example, an employer might try to deduct different expenses from an employee’s pay, such as the uniform or equipment needed to pay for their job. Sometimes, this alone is illegal, but if not, evidence that they have broken minimum wage laws can help to hold the employer accountable and restore any money lost.

Keeping inaccurate records: Employers are required to keep detailed records of each of their employees, including how many hours they work per day and what wages they have been paid. Some cases have found that an employer’s records of what was paid are actually higher than the physical paycheck that was offered.

This is to create the illusion that they were meeting minimum wage requirements when that wasn’t the reality of what hit the employee’s bank account. Proving this disconnect in court can help an employee recover wages they unlawfully missed out on.

Failure to maintain workers’ compensation insurance: California requires that all employers operating within the state have workers’ compensation insurance to cover any instances of an employee being injured on the job. This is to protect both the employee who needs compensation during recovery and the employer from facing a significant bill that was not budgeted for.

If an employee becomes injured and it is discovered that the employer has not secured this insurance, they will face significant penalties that will directly affect their bottom line.

Restricting employee speech and retaliation: There are examples where an employer is not able to restrict an employee’s speech. For example, many may feel it is taboo for employees to share their wages with one another. Under the National Labor Relations Act, this is protected and can be enforced if an employer tries to punish any employees for engaging in this discussion.

Also, an employer can be held accountable for any proof they wrongfully terminated an employee who raised a concern about any illegal activity they witnessed at work.


Q: What Are the New Labor Laws in California for 2023?

A: California introduced several new labor laws in 2023 that all employers should be familiar with. First, there has been an increase in minimum wage pay. Hourly employees must be paid at least $15.50 an hour. For exempt employees who receive a set salary no matter how many hours they work, this minimum salary is now $64,480 annually.

New legislation, such as SB 1162, requires that all private employers in the state with 100 or more employees must submit detailed pay data annually, and any employer who has more than 15 employees must include an estimated pay scale in their job postings to increase transparency.

Q: What Are the Changes in the 2023 Federal Employment Law?

A: There have been no significant changes in federal employment laws this year. The national minimum wage still stands at $7.25 per hour, as stated by the Fair Labor Standards Act. This government organization also outlines conditions for overtime pay, record keeping, and different standards for minors who have a job.

The Department of Labor has proposed a new rule to help clarify how employers classify their employees vs. independent contractors working for their organization. This is an attempt to prevent any scenarios where employers intentionally misclassify employees to save money.

Q: How Many Sick Days Are Required by Law in California?

A: Earlier in the year, Governor Newsom signed legislation SB 616 into law that now requires employers to offer at least five paid sick days per year under California law. This is an increase from the previous three days, that used to be the minimum required. In addition to having more paid days off for being sick, the legislation also increases an employee’s flexibility to accrue sick days or carry them over to the next year if they were fortunate enough not to need all five in a single year.

If you believe your employer has violated these new regulations, a San Diego, CA, Employment Law Attorney can help assess the validity of your claim and pursue justice under California law.

Q:  Can My California Employer Force Me to Work Overtime?

A: Yes, as of right now, an employer can still mandate that an employee works overtime hours. In most instances, an employer will extend flexibility to this request for extra working hours if the employee has a significant personal conflict. However, there is no flexibility for an employer to skimp out on paying their employees overtime pay for the extra hours worked.

Overtime pay should be one-and-a-half times the rate of your regular pay. Anything less would be considered a violation of wage and hour laws in the state and could provide grounds for filing a lawsuit against your employer.

Workers who think that their employer is in violation of the law might not know how to proceed or fear reprisal. Contact a California employment lawyer and bring the issue and the applicable law to the employer’s attention, and work toward rectifying the situation. If employers are unwilling to compensate their employees or otherwise address the issue, an attorney could take the matter to court.