California Minimum Wage Laws [2021]

Minimum wage is the lowest amount of money an employer can lawfully pay an employee according to state and federal laws. California has the highest minimum wage in the country (besides Washington, D.C.), as well as a provision that increases the state’s minimum wage annually. Learn more about California’s minimum wage laws to determine if your employer is paying you fairly. If not, you may be eligible to file a wage violation claim in Los Angeles.

State and Local Minimum Wage

Do not assume your employer is fulfilling California’s minimum wage and overtime laws; many employers intentionally go against the law to save money, while others do not realize they are shortchanging workers. Keep up with state and local wage laws (as of 2021) to remain in control of your own rights.

  • Federal minimum wage: $7.25 per hour for non-exempt employees. If a state’s minimum wage is higher than the federal minimum wage, the higher amount presides.
  • California minimum wage: $13 per hour if an employer has 25 or fewer employees; $14 per hour with more than 25 employees.
  • Los Angeles minimum wage: $14.25 for employers with 25 or fewer employees; $15 for larger employers. If a city or municipality has a higher minimum wage than state law, the higher amount presides.

Employers in Los Angeles must pay the hourly minimum wage as well as paid sick leave. It is illegal to waive the minimum wage requirement, even if an employee offers to work for less. Unless you are an exempt worker, you have the right to be paid minimum wage, sick leave pay and overtime in California.

California’s minimum wage laws are always changing. It is important to keep up with the latest minimum wage laws as a worker in California. Otherwise, you may be accepting less money than you deserve for the work you perform.

Minimum Wage Exceptions in California

California’s minimum wage laws apply to all covered workers. Covered workers are individuals who are employed in California – even undocumented workers. However, the minimum wage requirement comes with several specific exceptions. Certain types of employees have lower minimum wage requirements or no minimum wage requirement at all.

  • Employees without experience in the field may be paid 85% of the presiding minimum wage for the first 160 hours of work.
  • Employees with disabilities. Under Labor Code Section 1191, the Labor Commission can set the minimum wage for employees with disabilities for up to one year (subject to renewal) at less than the presiding minimum wage.
  • Employees at an organized camp. People who work at camps, including counselors and student employees, can be paid 85% of the minimum wage.
  • An employer’s immediate family members. Family members do not have the protections of California’s minimum wage laws.
  • Nonprofit organizations with special licenses can pay their employees less than the minimum wage.
  • Traveling salespeople. Employed salespeople who spend more than 50% of their time traveling to sell goods may earn less than the minimum wage.

Certain exempt workers are also not entitled to overtime pay. These include salaried workers who make at least $23,600 per year and workers who perform exempt duties. It is critical to verify that you are actually an exempt worker instead of your employer misclassifying you to save money. If you are not an exempt worker but classified as one, you have the right to bring a wage violation claim against your employer in California.

What If an Employer Refuses to Pay Minimum Wage?

If an employer in California refuses to pay a non-exempt employee minimum wage, the employee can file a wage and hour violation claim. This is a civil claim that seeks justice against an employer. A successful claim can force an employer to pay a worker everything he or she is owed in unpaid wages and overtime, as well as adhere to California’s minimum wage laws in the future. Learn more by consulting with a wage/hour attorney in Los Angeles.