Wage and Hour Law

Wage and hour laws, both state and federal, in Santa Rosa California as well as Petaluma, Ukiah and all of California must be followed by employers with respect to minimum wage, overtime, meal periods and rest periods. A Sonoma County employer is obligated to pay wages (at least minimum wage) in a timely fashion based upon a regular, established pay period schedule. Once an employee leaves employment, the Mendocino County employer must pay the employee wages and unused vacation within 72 hours of the employee’s last day, regardless of whether the employee is fired, laid off, or quit. An employer in Santa Rosa, Petaluma, Ukiah and in all of California cannot deduct monies from an employee’s final paycheck, even if the employer believes it is owed money from the employee. Employees denied these rights may be entitled to compensation for all hours worked for which the employee was not paid, plus penalties, interest and attorney’s fees.

Exempt vs. Non-Exempt Employees

At the outset, it is important to note that there are two types of employees in California: exempt and non-exempt employees. Exempt employees are employees to whom most labor laws do not apply, including an entitlement to overtime pay, rest breaks or meal periods. Typically, an exempt employee is paid a salary instead of hourly, has managerial functions or works with little supervision, has special skills, training or education, and is generally compensated at a higher rate than non-exempt employees. The following describes requirements and protections that are applicable to non-exempt employees.

State Mandated Overtime Pay

Pursuant to California Labor Code Section 510(a), a full day of work is eight hours. Non-exempt employees are entitled to overtime pay for any work performed in excess of eight hours in one day, and any work in excess of 40 hours in one week. Overtime compensation is one and a half times the employee’s regular rate of pay. California law also requires that work performed in excess of 12 hours in one day has to be compensated at twice the employee’s regular rate of pay.

Work Breaks

California Labor Code Section 512(a), requires that an employee be provided a meal period of at least 30 minutes after five hours of work, unless the total work shift is no more than six hours. If an employer does not provide the meal break, requires an employee to work through a meal break, or if the employee does not take the meal break within six hours of beginning his/ her shift, the employer is subject to fines and penalties, and the employee is entitled to additional compensation. California law also requires that if an employee works more than ten hours per day, a second thirty minute meal break is required.

Rest Breaks

In addition to meal breaks, an employer must provide two ten minute rest breaks in an eight hour shift. If an employer does not, the employer is subject to the same penalties as for failing to provide a meal break.

Unused Vacation Time

In California, employers are not required to provide paid time off. However, if the employer chooses to do so, the vacation time is considered part of the employee’s earned wages. Any unused vacation time must be paid to the employee at the time the employee leaves employment, regardless of the circumstances surrounding the employee leaving.


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