California Minimum Wage Laws
The price of living in California is well above the United States average—according to USA Today, housing alone costs 76.7% more in California than in the rest of the country.
To address this concern, California has enacted numerous minimum wage laws to help struggling families afford the rising costs of living in the Golden State. The most notable of these is California Senate Bill 3 (2016), which laid out a plan for increasing the minimum wage to $15 per hour statewide by 2023.
Individual counties and cities in California have enacted their own wage ordinances to help families pay for necessities such as food, clothing, utilities, and housing, which may be more expensive in certain areas.
As an employee in California, you have a right to fair wages. If your employer has been paying you less than the applicable minimum wage, then you may be able to take legal action against them and recover the wages you are rightfully owed.
PARRIS minimum wage lawyers have secured millions in back pay for victims of wage theft. If you suspect that your employer is paying you less than the applicable minimum wage, contact PARRIS Law Firm right away. Our seasoned attorneys will review your case for free and ensure that you see justice.
California Minimum Wage vs. LA County Minimum Wage
Determining which minimum wage law applies to your place of work can be a difficult task. When minimum wage ordinances conflict with one another, the law that is most generous to the worker applies. For example, the nationwide minimum wage is $7.25 an hour, but the lowest possible hourly rate in California is $14.00 an hour. The more generous law—California’s state minimum wage ordinance—applies.
Did you know, however, that Los Angeles County has enacted its own wage ordinance? The unincorporated LA County minimum wage has historically been higher than the California state minimum wage. Here are the differences:
Large Business With 26 Employees Or More
- As of January 1, 2022, the unincorporated LA County minimum wage is $15.00 per hour.
- The California state minimum wage is now also $15.00 per hour for large businesses.
Small Business With 25 Employees Or Less
- The LA County minimum wage for small businesses is also $15.00 per hour.
- As of January 1, 2022, the California state minimum wage for small businesses is now $14.00 per hour.
So if you work at a small business in an unincorporated area of LA County, you should be paid at least $15.00/hour, in accordance with the more generous law—the county ordinance.
What is “Unincorporated LA County?”
“Unincorporated LA County” includes any LA County community outside of an incorporated city’s borders. These include standalone communities such as Quartz Hill, Altadena, or Hacienda Heights, or can include areas adjacent to or between cities, such as East Pasadena or West Carson.
A full list of unincorporated LA County communities is available here.
A select few cities in LA County (Los Angeles, Long Beach, Malibu, Pasadena, Santa Monica, and West Hollywood) have enacted their own wage ordinances, which are usually on par with the LA County ordinance.
Incorporated cities in LA County that do not enact their own wage ordinances, such as Lancaster, Palmdale, or Santa Clarita, are subject to the California state minimum wage. As of January 1, 2022, the minimum wage in these cities is $14.00 per hour for small businesses and $15.00 per hour for large businesses.
To determine whether your workplace is located in a city or unincorporated area in LA County, consult this map.
Minimum Wage in Orange County, Kern County, Ventura County, and San Bernardino County
Counties adjacent to Los Angeles County, including Orange County, Kern County, Ventura County, and San Bernardino County, have not enacted minimum wage ordinances of their own. Therefore, the applicable minimum wage in these counties is the California state minimum wage: $14.00 per hour for small businesses, and $15.00 per hour for large businesses.
Make Sure You Receive Fair Compensation
Some employers attempt to avoid paying employees the minimum wage by incorrectly classifying them as independent contractors. Doing so also frees these employers from paying overtime wages or providing meal or rest breaks to their workers.
This is illegal under California law. AB 5 lays out strict requirements for independent contractor classification, and most of California’s workers do not meet these requirements.
You can read more about minimum wage and independent contractor misclassification in California at our Independent Contractor page.
California Minimum Salary Requirements
Even salaried employees must be paid a minimum wage in California. No salary in California can legally be less than what a full-time hourly employee earning the minimum wage would make in a year.
Salaried workers can be classified as “exempt” or “non-exempt.”
Non-exempt salaried workers, though they earn a salary, are still subject to California wage & hour laws. This means that they must be paid a minimum salary of either $29,120 or $31,200. They are also entitled to meal breaks, rest breaks, and overtime pay.
Exempt employees are not required to adhere to certain California wage and hour laws, including those pertaining to overtime pay, rest breaks, and off-the-clock work. However, these employees must meet certain strict requirements to be properly classified as exempt. These include, but are not limited to:
- Earning a salary of at least twice California’s state minimum wage. For small businesses, that means a minimum salary requirement of $58,240 in 2022. For large businesses, salaried workers must earn at least $62,400 to be classified exempt.
- Regularly exercising “discretion and independent judgment” while performing their job duties.
- Completing executive, administrative, or professional duties. The vast majority of salaried exempt employees are white-collar workers.
California wage orders exempt certain other employees from some wage and hour laws. You can read a full list of these exemptions at the California Labor Commissioner’s website.
Employee Misclassification as Salaried Exempt
Despite clear laws outlining the qualifications for being classified as salaried exempt, many employers will attempt to save money by misclassifying their non-exempt employees as salaried exempt. By doing so, employers avoid paying their workers overtime wages or allowing them to take rest breaks.
This is both unfair and illegal under California law. You have a right to be paid for every minute you work—and our firm will fight for that right.
PARRIS Law Firm has successfully litigated dozens of class action lawsuits against employers who misclassified their non-exempt workers as salaried exempt. Some of these victories for clients include:
- A $135 million settlement for salaried claims adjusters
- A $120 million settlement for insurance workers
- A $33 million settlement for claims adjusters at another company
- A $7 million settlement for salaried sales managers at a plumbing company
- A $5.625 million settlement for salaried retail merchandisers at a greeting card company
- A $5.5 million settlement for misclassified workers at a phone company
If you are currently classified as “salaried exempt” and you know you don’t meet the requirements for salaried exempt listed above, then your employer may be withholding the wages you are owed. The employment attorneys at PARRIS Law Firm can fight for you.
Get a Free Minimum Wage Case Review at PARRIS
Regardless of your work or immigration status, you deserve to be paid for every minute you work. If you suspect you are earning less than minimum wage, contact PARRIS Law Firm immediately.
We take all employment law cases on a contingency basis, meaning that you pay no fees until we win the compensation you deserve.
Since the PARRIS Law Firm first opened its doors in 1985, our attorneys have secured $1.9 billion in wins for clients. We fight relentlessly for our clients until they see justice.
Don’t let your employer take advantage of you any longer. Schedule your free case review with PARRIS Law Firm today.
Employment law encompasses various legal matters related to the rights and obligations of employees and employers in the workplace. It encompasses a wide range of cases concerning employment relationships.