Common Wage and Hour Violations in California [2024 Updated]

Frank S. Clowney III

As a California employee, you have rights. If you’ve found yourself the victim of wage and hour law violations, you are well within your rights to file a claim with the California Labor Commissioner’s office. Unfortunately, not everyone knows what constitutes a violation and can miss out on their chance for compensation. It is crucial to understand common wage and hour violations in California.

When an employer breaches the wage and hour laws, it can result in unpaid wages, missed breaks, not receiving overtime, and other injustices. When these violations occur, a wage and hour attorney can help you navigate the claims process.

What Is California Wage and Hour Law?

Wage and hour laws lay out how employers treat their workers in terms of overtime worked, the minimum wage paid, failing to reimburse, and allowing rest and meal breaks. When an employer breaches any of the rules laid out in reference to any of these inclusions, they have violated California wage and hour laws.

  • Minimum wage. As of January 1, 2024, the minimum wage in California was raised to $16 per hour for any employee. Some cities may have higher minimums, and there may also be exceptions if the employee is a parent, child, or spouse of the employer.
  • Overtime pay. Eligible employees in California must receive overtime pay if they work more than eight hours in a day or 40 hours in a week.
  • Rest and meal breaks. Under these laws, all California employees are entitled to a 30-minute unpaid break to eat if they are working more than five hours a day. They receive an additional 20 minutes of unpaid break if they work more than 12 hours in a day and are entitled to a paid 10-minute break for every four hours worked.
  • Failure to reimburse. Every employee in the state is entitled to reimbursement paid by their employer for all losses or expenses gained as a result of the discharge of the duties of the employee.

Common Violations of California Wage and Hour Law

Unfortunately, there are many occasions when employers violate these laws. Common violations of hour and wage laws may include:

  • Missed meal and rest breaks. Sometimes, employers may deny or discourage an employee from taking their entitled breaks. This is a direct violation of wage and hour laws.
  • Unpaid minimum wage. When employers fail to adhere to California’s minimum wage laws, this can lead to significant financial losses for the employee.
  • Working off-clock. Sometimes, employers may ask employees to carry out work-related tasks when they are not on the clock or not working for compensation. This is a violation of the wage and hour laws because employees should be paid for all hours they work.
  • Reimburse failures. Sometimes, an employee will be asked to incur expenses while doing their job and will expect to be reimbursed by their employer. These expenses can include travel costs or expenses built up by purchasing required tools or uniforms. When an employer fails to offer reimbursement, this is a violation.
  • Unpaid overtime. Probably the most common violation is when an employer fails to pay an employee for any overtime work.
  • Employee misclassification. In some cases, employers may call an employee a “contractor” in order to avoid overtime pay or having to offer them certain benefits. When this misclassification occurs, employees may find themselves denied their rights and can file a claim for the violation of wage and hour laws.

What Does Not Count as a Violation

There are certain situations that can occur that might be mistaken as a violation of the wage and hour laws. However, if you plan on filing a complaint, it is essential to determine what is a violation and what may just be a simple misunderstanding. Common elements of work that are not a violation of wage and hour laws include:

  • Salary pay
  • On-call time
  • Volunteer work
  • Flex time
  • Travel time

For both employees and employers, it is important to distinguish between the above situations and what might be an actual violation. Consulting legal counsel is a good way to determine whether something you’ve experienced is a direct violation or just a misunderstanding.

How to Prove a Violation of Wage and Hour Law

It can sometimes be tricky to prove a violation of wage and hour laws in California. There are many steps to take in order to file a complaint. These include:

  • Familiarizing yourself with California labor laws.
  • Consulting an attorney.
  • Gathering evidence of a violation.
  • Reporting the violation.
  • Filing a complaint.
  • Attending any hearings or mediation.
  • Pursuing any necessary legal action.
  • Continuing to keep records.
  • Seeking any possible remedies.


Q: What Are Common Labor Code Violations in California?

A: Common violations of the state labor code include such things as not paying due overtime, not paying employees minimum wage, delaying payment, not allowing meal or rest breaks, and not reimbursing business expenses. In some cases, the violation of this law will require the employer to pay penalties.

Q: What Is the Difference Between Exempt and Non-exempt Employees Under California Law?

A: In the state, non-exempt workers are protected by wage and hour laws. This gives them the right to meal and rest breaks, overtime pay, and minimum wage. However, exempt workers are not protected by these laws. Examples of exempt workers include lawyers, store managers, and private high school teachers.

Q: What Is the Penalty for Violating Wage Statements in California?

A: In the state of California, the initial violation of wage statements incurs a penalty of $100 for every failure to pay each employee. For any following violations or any violation that is committed on purpose, the penalty is $200 for every failure for every employee in addition to 25% of the withheld wages.

Q: What Are Some Common Ways Employers Misclassify Employees as Independent Contractors?

A: Misclassifying employees is a way some employers may try to get around upholding wage and hours laws. Some common ways include:

  • Claiming the employee is an independent contractor.
  • Claiming the employee is free to work for other employers.
  • Having the employee work offsite.
  • Paying the employee cash only or off the books.

Contact a Wage and Hour Law Attorney Today

Many employees in the state of California do not know or understand the violations of hour and wage laws they might experience. If you think you have undergone a violation of your rights, contact The Law Office of Frank S. Clowney, III, today to review your situation and determine your legal options. Don’t let your hard work and dedication be abused.