Minimum Wage in California (FAQs)

Minimum wage laws set the lowest amount an employer can pay wage earners for hourly work. These laws exist to protect workers from unduly low pay. Understanding minimum wage laws is vital for workers. Understanding these laws ensures workers know their rights and protections, preventing exploitation. To help you better understand California minimum wage laws, we have compiled some of the frequently asked questions about minimum wage in California and the answers to these questions. 

What is the minimum wage in California?

The minimum wage in California is not the same every year. Like other states, California periodically adjusts its minimum wage to account for inflation and changes in the cost of living. There is a schedule for incremental increases to the state’s minimum wage. California’s minimum wage for 2024 for all employees paid on an hourly basis is $16.00. This applies to all employers, regardless of the size of the employer. However, some areas in California have higher minimum wages. Click here for a list of minimum wages across Cities and Counties in California.

Why do some places in California pay workers more than the state’s minimum wage?

Some areas in California may have higher minimum wages than the state’s rate for several reasons. Cost of living disparities is one of the main reasons. Major cities such as Los Angeles and San Francisco may pay workers more than the state’s minimum wage to align with the cost of living. The current minimum wage for Los Angeles is $16.78 per hour, and that of San Francisco is $18.07 per hour. San Francisco has one of the highest minimum wages in California.

Are there exemptions to giving workers the minimum wage in California?

In California, some categories of workers may be exempted from the state’s minimum wage. They include outside salespersons, spouses, children, or parents of employers, and some disabled workers employed in nonprofit organizations. Learners (employees during their first 160 hours of employment working in occupations in which they have no previous similar or related experience) may also be paid at least 85% of the minimum wage. This exception applies regardless of a learner’s age.

Do minimum wage laws apply to employers with one employee?

Unless another exception applies, an employer with one employee must pay at least the minimum wage as mandated by state law. California’s minimum wage law applies to all employers regardless of the company’s size.

Can a worker accept to work for less than the state’s minimum wage?

An employee cannot waive their right to be paid at least than the state’s minimum wage by entering an agreement with their employer. Even if an employer agrees to receive less than the minimum wage, such an agreement would generally be considered unenforceable and void.

What can an employee do if they are paid less than the legally allowed minimum wage?

If an employer pays an employee less than the legally allowed minimum wage, the employee can file a legal case against the employer to recover unpaid wages. An employee could also recover damages related to their unpaid wages and penalties.

Contact a California Employment Lawyer

Contact a California employment lawyer if you have questions or if an employer owes you wages.