In California, it is illegal for employers to pay employees less than the minimum wage. If your employer pays you less than the minimum wage, you can recover all the money owed to you, 10% interest on the money owed; you may also recover 25% of whatever is collected under PAGA against the employer for civil penalties. For big employers, the civil penalties in PAGA cases have exceeded $7 million.

Table of Content

  1. What is the minimum wage in California?
  2. How do you calculate overtime pay in California? How do you calculate time and a half? Is overtime after 8 hours or 40 hours?
  3. How do you get double time pay in California? How many hours is double time in California?
  4. Can an employer pay you less than minimum wage? Can I as an employee agree with the employer to work less than the minimum wage?
  5. What are the exceptions to minimum wage?
  6. What issues wage and hour issues does the minimum wage impact?
  7. What can you do if you are not being paid minimum wage? Can I sue my employer for underpaying me?

  1. What is the minimum wage in California?

With exceptions, the minimum wage in California employers with 25 employees or less is:

  • 2019          $11 per hour
  • 2020          $12 per hour
  • 2021          $13 per hour
  • 2022          $14 per hour

The minimum wage in California employers with 25 employees or less is:

  • 2019          $12 per hour
  • 2020          $13 per hour
  • 2021          $14 per hour
  • 2022          $15 per hour

(Labor Code section 1182.12). The minimum wage may be higher for cities and counties in California. For example, the minimum wage for San Diego is $12 per hour in 2019.


  • How do you calculate overtime pay in California? How do you calculate time and a half? Is overtime after 8 hours or 40 hours?

An employer must pay 1.5X for all hours worked by an employee: (a) that are more than 8 hours in a single day, or (b) that are more than 40 hours in a work week, (c) that are An employer must pay no less than time-and-a-half the employee’s regular rate of pay for the first eight hours worked on the seventh consecutive workday in a workweek.

Example A: John’s hourly rate is $10 per hour.  John works 8 hours on Monday; then 4 hours of overtime that same day.  John’s overtime rate is $15 per hour. Therefore, John’s total overtime pay is $15 X 4 hours = $60.

Example B: John’s hourly rate is $10 per hour.  John worked 8 hours per day from Monday through Friday; then, on Saturday John works 5 hours. Therefore, John’s overtime pay is $15 X 5 hours = $75.

Example C: John’s hourly rate is $10 per hour. John worked a total of 30 hours from Monday through Saturday. John worked 7 hours on Sunday. John’s overtime pay is $15 X 7 hours = $105.


  • How do you get double time pay in California? How many hours is double time in California?

An employer must pay double time (2X) for all hours worked by an employee that are: (a) more than 12 hours in a single day, (b) more than 40 hours in a work week, or (c) in excess of eight on the seventh consecutive workday in a workweek.

Example A: John’s hourly rate is $10 per hour.  John works 8 hours on Monday; then 4 hours of overtime that same day.  John’s double-time rate is $20 per hour. Therefore, John’s total double-time pay is $20 X 4 hours = $80.

Example B: John’s hourly rate is $10 per hour.  John worked 8 hours per day from Monday through Friday; then, on Saturday John works 5 hours. Therefore, John’s double-time pay is $20 X 5 hours = $100.

Example C: John’s hourly rate is $10 per hour. John worked a total of 30 hours from Monday through Saturday. John worked 10 hours on Sunday. John’s overtime pay is 8 hours worked on Sunday; double time pay is on the 9th-10th hours worked on Sunday.


  • Can an employer pay you less than minimum wage? Can I as an employee agree with the employer to work less than the minimum wage?

No. In California, the minimum wage is controls; the minimum wage may not be waived. Any agreement between an employer and an employee to work for less than the minimum wage is not valid.


  • What are the exceptions to minimum wage?

The minimum wage law does not apply to these categories of employees:

  • Student employee, camp counselor, or program counselor of an organized camp if the student employee, camp counselor, or program counselor receives a weekly salary of at least 85 percent of the minimum wage for a 40-hour week. (Labor Code section 1182.4)
  • Outside salesman or salesperson; An “outside salesperson” is an employee who spends more than half her working hours away from the employer’s place of business, selling products or services. (Labor Code section 1171)
  • Any individual participating in a national service program carried out using assistance provided under Section 12571 of Title 42 of the United States Code.
  • An employee who is mentally or physically handicapped, or both, a special license authorizing the employment of the employee for a period not to exceed one year from date of issue, at a wage less than the legal minimum wage. The wage commission shall fix a special minimum wage for the employee. (Labor Code section 1191)

The minimum wage law does not apply to workers who are classified as independent contractors because an independent contractor is not “employee.”

There are employees who are “exempt” from minimum wage but that is outside the scope of this article.[1]


  • What issues wage and hour issues does the minimum wage impact?

The minimum wage in California, effective January 1, 2019, is $12.00 per hour for employers with 26 or more employees and $11.00 for employers with 25 or fewer employees. The 2019 increase impacts various wage and hour issues as follows:

  • “White Collar Exemptions”: Exempt employees in California must make at least twice the minimum wage on an annual basis. The current minimum salary for exempt employees who work for employers having more than 25 employees increased to $49,920 effective January 1, 2019, and it will increase to $54,080 effective January 1, 2020, $58,240 effective January 1, 2021, and $62,400 effective January 1, 2022.
  • Earnings of Exempt Commissioned Salespersons: To qualify for exempt status, commissioned salespersons’ earnings must (i) exceed one and one-half times the minimum wage; and. (ii) more than half of the employee’s compensation must represent commissions.
  • Overtime, Vacation, Sick Leave, Paid Time Off, and Meal and Rest Period Premiums: These must be adjusted in light of the minimum wage requirements.
  • Split-Shift Pay: Employers who operate two or more shifts in a workday with an unpaid break of more than an hour between the shifts must comply with “split-shift” pay regulations, an extra hour of pay at California’s minimum wage, unless the employee earns more than an hour of extra pay at minimum wage on that workday.
  • Voluntary Meal or Lodging Agreement: Meals or lodging may not be credited against the minimum wage of an employee without a voluntary written agreement between the employer and the employee. Any such voluntary agreement must be adjusted to reflect the minimum wage increase.
  • Posting Requirement: Employers must post the most current minimum wage rate.

(Source[2])


  •  What can you do if you are not being paid minimum wage? Can I sue my employer for underpaying me?

It is unlawful for your employer to retaliation against you for complaining about, or bringing a lawsuit over, their failure to pay the minimum wage. The employer will be liable for punitive damages for retaliation against you.

Yes, the employer may sue the employer. Under Labor Code section 1194, “any employee receiving less than the legal minimum wage or the legal overtime compensation applicable to the employee is entitled to recover in a civil action the unpaid balance of the full amount of this minimum wage or overtime compensation, including interest thereon, reasonable attorney’s fees, and costs of suit.”

The money an employee would be eligible to receive in a California minimum wage lawsuit are: wages owed, interest on the wages owed, civil penalty against the employer up to $250 per pay period violation.  

The employee may also be entitled to twice the amount the employer underpaid the employee – as liquidated damages.[3]

For questions about the minimum wage in California or to discuss your case confidentially with one of our skilled California labor and employment attorneys, do not hesitate to contact us at (619) 550-1321. Our office has served clients throughout California including Los Angeles, San Diego, Orange County, Riverside, San Bernardino, Ventura, San Jose, Oakland, the San Francisco Bay area, and surrounding cities.


LEGAL REFERENCE


[1]  The minimum wage requirement does not apply to persons employed in administrative, executive, or professional capacities.[1] These persons must earn a monthly salary equivalent to no less than two (2) times the state minimum wage for full-time employment.

Executive Capacity: A person employed in an executive capacity means any employee: (a)  Whose duties and responsibilities involve the management of the enterprise in which he/she is employed or of a customarily recognized department or subdivision thereof; and (b)  Who customarily and regularly directs the work of two or more other employees herein; and (c)  Who has the authority to hire or fire other employees or whose suggestions and recommendations as to the hiring or firing and as to the advancement and promotion or any other change of status of other employees will be given particular weight; and (d)  Who customarily and regularly exercises discretion and independent judgment; and (e)  Who is primarily engaged in duties which meet the test of the exemption.

Administrative Capacity. A person employed in an executive capacity means any employee: (a) Whose duties and responsibilities involve either: (i) The performance of office or non-manual work directly related to management policies or general business operations of his employer or his employer’s customers, or (ii) The performance of functions in the administration of a school system, or educational establishment or institution, or of a department or subdivision thereof, in work directly related to the academic instruction or training carried on therein; and (b) Who customarily and regularly exercises discretion and independent judgment; and (c) Who regularly and directly assists a proprietor, or an employee employed in a bona fide executive or administrative capacity (as such terms are defined for purposes of this section); or (d) Who performs under only general supervision work along specialized or technical lines requiring special training, experience, or knowledge; or (e) Who executes under only general supervision special assignments and tasks; and (f) Who are primarily engaged in duties that meet the test of the exemption.

Professional Capacity: A person employed in a professional capacity means any employee who meets all of the following requirements: (a)  Who is licensed or certified by the State of California and is primarily engaged in the practice of one of the following recognized professions: law, medicine, dentistry, optometry, architecture, engineering, teaching, or accounting; or (b)  Who is primarily engaged in an occupation commonly recognized as a learned  or artistic profession. For the purposes of this subsection, “learned or artistic profession” means an employee who is primarily engaged in the performance of: (i)  Work requiring knowledge of an advanced type in a field or science or learning customarily acquired by a prolonged course of specialized intellectual instruction and study, as distinguished from a general academic education and from an apprenticeship, and from training in the performance of routine mental, manual, or physical processes, or work that is an essential part of or necessarily incident to any of the above work; or (ii)  Work that is original and creative in character in a recognized field of artistic endeavor (as opposed to work which can be produced by a person endowed with general manual or intellectual ability and training), and the result of which depends primarily on the invention, imagination, or talent of the employee or work that is an essential part of or necessarily incident to any of the above work; and (iii)  Whose work is predominantly intellectual and varied in character (as opposed to routine mental, manual, mechanical, or physical work) and is of such character that the output produced or the result accomplished cannot be standardized in relation to a given period of time.

[2] Labor and Employment in California: A Guide to Employment Laws, Regulations, and Practices, Ch. 1, § 2-5 (Matthew Bender, 2d Ed.)

[3] Labor Code section 1194.2, states:  (a) In any action under Section 98, 1193.6, 1194, or 1197.1 to recover wages because of the payment of a wage less than the minimum wage fixed by an order of the commission or by statute, an employee shall be entitled to recover liquidated damages in an amount equal to the wages unlawfully unpaid and interest thereon. Nothing in this subdivision shall be construed to authorize the recovery of liquidated damages for failure to pay overtime compensation. A suit may be filed for liquidated damages at any time before the expiration of the statute of limitations on an action for wages from which the liquidated damages arise. (b) Notwithstanding subdivision (a), if the employer demonstrates to the satisfaction of the court or the Labor Commissioner that the act or omission giving rise to the action was in good faith and that the employer had reasonable grounds for believing that the act or omission was not a violation of any provision of the Labor Code relating to minimum wage, or an order of the commission, the court or the Labor Commissioner may, as a matter of discretion, refuse to award liquidated damages or award any amount of liquidated damages not exceeding the amount specified in subdivision (a). (c) This section applies only to civil actions commenced on or after January 1, 1992.