Minimum Wages

What Is The Minimum Wage Law in California?

California has a strong public policy in favor of protecting the rights of employee to be paid for their work. California law provides that most employees must be paid at least the minimum hourly wage for all hours worked, whether the employee is paid hourly, salary, piece rate, commission, or other method of calculation. An employer and an employee can agree to any rate of pay so long as it is at least the applicable minimum wage.

  • What is a salary? A salary is a pre-determined amount constituting all or part of the employee’s compensation, which amount is not subject to reduction because of variations in the quality or quantity of the work performed.  
  • What is a piece rate? Piece Rate is “work paid for according to the number of units turned out.”   A piece-rate must be based upon an ascertainable figure paid for completing a particular task or making a particular piece of goods.  
  • What is a commission? A commission is compensation paid to any person for services rendered in the sale of such employer’s property or services and based proportionately upon the amount or value thereof.  In order to be a commission, the compensation must be a percentage of the price of the product or service sold.

Who Is Not Entitled To Minimum Wage in California?

  • Outside salespersons
  • Individuals who are the parent, spouse, or children of the employer.
  • Independent contractors
  • Volunteers
  • Students
What is The Labor Commissioner’s Opinion


DLSE Opinion. Letter No.

Minimum Wage: No exemption for employees of religious organizations Volunteers: Definition of volunteer vs. employee.


Minimum wage: California State University employees.


What Is The Minimum Wage Rate In California?

Effective Date

Employers with 26 or More Employees


January 1, 2019



January 1, 2020



January 1, 2021



January 1, 2022



Previous Year

January 1, 2017



January 1, 2018



What is the Definition of Wages in California?

People often think that a wage is limited to the money that an employee receives on payday. While, this is partly true, wages also include anything of value that is received by an employee as compensation for his or her work. Labor Code section 200 define “wages” as all amounts for labor performed by employees of every description, whether the amount is fixed or ascertained by the standard of time, task, piece,commission basis, or other method of calculation. Wages include, and are not limited to:

  • Room, board and clothing
  • Employee’s interest in a profit-sharing plan
  • Employee stock options
  • Medical plan benefits and an insurance policy
  • Employer’s payments to a health and welfare fund
  • Insurance premiums
  • Unemployment insurance payments
  • Pension plan benefits

What is the Definition of “Hours Worked”?

California employers must pay employees at least the minimum wage for every “hour worked” up to 8 hours in a workday and for all hours worked less than 40 hours in a workweek.

Where are the rules found: California’s wage and hour laws are found in several provisions of the California Labor Code and several IWC Wage Orders. California law and all of the IWC Wage Orders, except Wage Order 4 and Wage Order 5 define “hours worked” as:

“All the time during which an employee is subject to the control of an employer, and includes all the time the employee is suffered or permitted to work, whether or not required to do so”.

What does this mean: This means that employees are entitled to compensation no matter where the work is performed and even if the employee is not working because of factors not within his or her control – such as lack of work, downtime, equipment breakdowns, standby time and being on-call.

An employee is “controlled” by the employer whenever the employer “directs, commands or restrains” an employee.

“Suffered or permitted to work” refers to time worked where the employer knows the employee is working and does nothing to stop it, or when the employer possesses information from which such knowledge can be inferred, and that the employer “had reason to know” that the employee was performing work on its behalf.

Wage Order 4 and IWC Wage Order No. 5 contains a different definition of “hours worked”. Healthcare workers have their own definition of “hours worked”.

Definition of “Hours Worked” for Healthcare Workers

A separate definition of “hours worked” applies to any healthcare worker who is subject to IWC Wage Order 4 or IWC Wage Order 5.

  • Provides patient care
  • Works in a clinical or medical department, including pharmacists dispensing prescriptions in any practice setting
  • Works primarily or regularly as a member of a patient care delivery team
  • Is a Licensed veterinarian, registered veterinary technicians or unregistered animal health technician providing patient care.

  • Doctor’s Office.
  • Medical clinics.
  • Animal care services with no overnight shelter or feeding.

  • Hospitals
  • Convalescent hospitals
  • Animal care services with overnight shelter or feeding
  • Skilled nursing facilities
  • Intermediate care and residential care facilities
  • Convalescent care institutions
  • Home health agencies

  • Provides patient care
  • Works in a clinical or medical department, including pharmacists dispensing prescriptions in any practice setting
  • Works primarily or regularly as a member of a patient care delivery team
  • Is a Licensed veterinarian, registered veterinary technicians or unregistered animal health technician providing patient care.

What is the Definition Of a Workday?

The employer must designate what is a workday. California Labor Code section 500 (a) defines “workday” and “day” to mean any consecutive 24-hour period commencing at the same time each calendar day.

The workday can start at any time of the day and should not be changed.
The start of the employer’s designation of a workday (i.e. 12:00 a.m.) can be different than the start of the employee’s shift (i.e. 8:00 a.m.). However, the designation should not be made to avoid overtime compensation.
Once a workday is designated by the employer, it should not be changed.

What is the Definition of a Workweek?

The employer must designate what is a workweek. California Labor Code section 500 (b) defines “workweek” and “week” as any seven consecutive days, starting with the same calendar day each week. “Workweek” is a fixed and regularly recurring period of 168 hours, seven consecutive 24-hour periods.

The workweek that is designated by the employer’s does not need to be the same as the calendar week. In other words, the workweek can be Wednesday to Wednesday.
An employer cannot designate the workweek to avoid paying overtime compensation.
What is The Labor Commissioner’s Opinion


DLSE Opinion. Letter No.

Hours worked: Workweek


Overtime: 24-hour employees


Can The Employee Agree To Waive The Right To Minimum Wage?

The right to be paid at least minimum wage may not be waived. An employer may not require an employee to work for a wage less than the legal minimum wage and the employer cannot have the employee contract for a wage less than minimum wage.

What is The Labor Commissioner’s Opinion


DLSE Opinion. Letter No.

Belo Contracts or guaranteed compensation contracts.


Can The Employer Have An Employee Release Their Claim To Unpaid Wages?

Many employers offer their employees severance agreements in the hopes that the employee will not be able to sue the employer. These severance agreements typically provide that the employee will receive a certain sum of money in exchange for a release of any and all claims the employee has against the employer. California Labor Code section 206.5 provides that any release of claim for unpaid wages shall be void if the wages are not actually paid. This means that if there is no dispute over the amount of wages due, the employee cannot waive their right to the amount, even if a release is signed.

What Are The Damages If An Employer Does Not Pay Minimum Wage?

An individual who has not been paid minimum wage compensation may be entitled to the following damages: 

1. The unpaid balance of the full amount of the minimum wage; 
2. Liquidated damages in an amount equal to the wages unlawfully unpaid; 
3. Interest; 
4. Attorney’s fees; 
5. Costs of suit; 
6. Waiting time penalties if the employee has quit, been terminated, discharged or laid off; 
7. Statutory Penalties; and,
8. Civil Penalties under Labor Code section 2698 et seq., also known as the Private Attorneys General Act (PAGA)

For a detailed review of the PAGA penalties applicable to a minimum wage violation click here.

What Is The Statute Of Limitation?

The statute of limitations for a minimum wage claim is three years before the date the lawsuit is filed in court. The statute of limitations is extended to four years before the date the lawsuit is filed in court if violation of California’s Unfair Competition Law (UCL) (Business & Professions Code § 17200 et seq.) is also alleged. This means that the employee can go back four years from the date a civil complaint is filed to recover any unpaid minimum wages.

Contact a Los Angeles Minimum Wage and Hour Lawyer

The Law Offices of Morris Nazarian provides representation to employees seeking the payment of overtime wages, minimum wages, missed meal and rest breaks, vacation wages, deductions from wages, severance pay, misclassification, independent contractor cases and other unpaid wages or commissions. We also handle harassment and discrimination claims.

If you have been denied minimum wages in the workplace, it is important that you speak to a skilled lawyer who understands how to protect your rights. Los Angeles wage and hour attorney Morris Nazarian has successfully represented employees who have been denied minimum wage compensation. Please contact Los Angeles Employment Attorney Morris Nazarian by calling (310) 284-7333 to make an appointment for a free initial consultation or please fill out the Employment Law Case Evaluation Form and a Los Angeles Employment lawyer will call or email you as soon as possible. 

If the minimum wage violation is company-wide, you and your co-workers may be entitled to bring a class action lawsuit against the employer.