Top 10 California Employee Rights in the Workplace Every Worker Should Know

Updated: Dec 26, 2022

California employees are entitled to a host of rights to ensure they are paid fair wages and work in a safe environment. This article discusses the top 10 employee rights in a workplace.

1. Get Paid a Minimum Wage

An employer is required to pay its employees the prevailing minimum wage. As of 2022, employers with 26 or more employees must pay a minimum wage of $15 per hour. Employers with 25 or less employees must pay $14 an hour.

It is important to note that the City of Los Angeles has its own wage ordinance which sets a higher minimum wage than the state. As of July 1, 2022, employers must pay a minimum wage of $16.04 per hour.

2. Get a 10 Minute Paid Rest Break for Every 4 Hours Worked

California law requires employees to receive a net 10 minute rest break for every 4 hours worked. The employee must be relieved of all work duties during the break. If practical, the 10 minute breaks should be provided in the middle of the 4 hour work period.

3. Get a 30 Minute Lunch Break

With a few limited exceptions, California law requires an employee to take an uninterrupted 30 minute lunch break for every 5 hours work. The lunch break must begin before the end of the 5th hour in a work period. During this period, the employee is relieved of all work duties and may leave the premises.

4. Get Overtime Pay When Required

An employee must be paid 1 1/2 times their regular hourly rate if he/she works more than 8 hours a day or 40 hours during a workweek. Additionally, an employee must be paid 2 times their regular hourly rate if he/she work more than 12 hours in a day.

5. Get a Minimum of 3 Paid Sick Days a Year

An employer is required to provide its employees a minimum of 3 paid sick days a year. The employee accrues 1 hour of paid sick pay for every 30 hours worked, up to 24 hours or 3 days a year. The employee must work for 30 or more days for the employer to be eligible to accrue paid sick days, and may use those accrued sick days on his/her 90th day of employment. Unused sick days may be carried over to next year, but can be capped to 48 hours a year.

It is important to note that the City of Los Angeles requires an employer to provide a minimum of 48 hours (6 days) of accrued paid sick days a year.

6. Get Paid at Least Twice a Month

An employee should be paid at least twice a month, and those days have to be designated by the employer, such as the 1st and 15th of the month. Employees can also be paid on a weekly or bi-weekly schedule as long as they receive their money no later than 7 days after the pay period ends.

7. Get Reimbursed for Work Related Expenses

An employer must reimburse its employee for all necessary expenses incurred on behalf of the business. For example, if an employee uses his/her personal computer for work, then he/she must be reimbursed for that use. An employee that uses his/her car to travel for work, such as visiting customers, must be reimbursed for the use of their personal car according to the Standard Mileage Rates set forth by the IRS.

8. Get Paid For Preparing and Concluding Time

Preparing time is time spent by an employee getting ready to begin the workday, such as putting on special uniforms or opening up the store. Concluding time is time spent for an employer after the employee has clocked out, such as going through security checks or closing the store. An employer is required to pay employees for all preparing and concluding time.

9. Get Properly Characterized as an Employee

Some California employers will falsely classify an employee as an independent contractor to avoid complying with various federal and state regulations. The law presumes that that a person who works for an employer is an “employee” and thus entitled to all the protections and benefits afforded under the law. And in 2019, the California legislature passed a law which essentially made it extremely difficult for an employee to be misclassified as an independent contractor – with a very few and narrow exceptions. In short, the independent contractor status is now reserved for someone who genuinely runs an independent business, has other clients, and is free to perform the work at his/her discretion and time.

10. Get a Properly Itemized Pay Stub

An employee’s pay stub must show the following information:

  • Name and address of the employer
  • Name of the employee and the last 4 digits of the social security number
  • The pay period days which the paycheck covers
  • The total number of hours which the employee worked and the hourly rate. If an employee works overtime, those hours and the hourly rate must also be provided.
  • Gross wages earned by the employee
  • Piece-rate units earned and the rate (if applicable)
  • Federal & state tax withholdings
  • Other mandatory deductions, such as garnishments and CalSavers
  • Employee net wages after all withholdings and deductions
  • Employees accrued paid sick days, and any hours used

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