Establishing Wages and Hours

Employers in California are subject to labor laws from many sources, both state and federal. When these laws conflict, there often is no easy answer to the issue of which one will prevail. In general, the law that is most restrictive to the employer and most generous to the employee must be followed.

Sources of Federal Labor Law

In addition, California employers must comply with federal law, which often conflicts with state law or is more or less restrictive. In general, California’s wage and hour laws are more restrictive than federal laws, though there are some exceptions.

The following are some of the sources of federal labor law:

  • Fair Labor Standards Act
  • Davis-Bacon Act (prevailing wage)
  • Americans with Disabilities Act
  • Immigration and Naturalization Act
  • Family and Medical Leave Act

Fair Labor Standards Act

The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), enacted in 1938, is by far the most important federal law affecting wages and hours with which employers should be familiar. The FLSA establishes minimum wage, overtime pay, record keeping and child labor standards.
The FLSA requires employers to:

  • Pay at least the current minimum wage to all covered and nonexempt employees for all hours worked;
  • Pay at least one and one-half times the regular rate of pay of all covered and nonexempt employees for all hours worked over 40 in the work week (in California, also pay at least one and one-half times the regular rate of pay of all covered and nonexempt employees for all hours worked over eight (8) hours per day);
  • Comply with FLSA child labor standards; and,
  • Comply with FLSA record keeping requirements.

Inquiries and requests for additional information on wages, hours and the FLSA should be addressed to any of the California-based, U.S. Department of Labor district offices: 

U.S. Department of Labor
Employment Standards Administration, Wage and Hour Division

East Los Angeles District Office
Tel: (626) 966-0478; (626) 966-8679; Fax: (626) 966-5539

Los Angeles District Office
Tel: (818) 240-5274; (213) 894-6375; Fax: (213) 894-6845

Sacramento District Office
Tel: (916) 978-6120; Fax: (916) 978-6125

San Diego District Office
Tel: (619) 557-5606; Fax: (619) 557-6375

San Francisco District Office
Tel: (415) 744-5590; Fax: (415) 744-5088

Wage Rates

The Industrial Welfare Commission regulates wages and hours of non-exempt employees in California through wage orders. Each of the 17 wage orders is specific to the industry or occupation it covers. Within each wage order, an employer can find regulations on such things as:

  • Hours and days of work 
  • Minimum wages 
  • Reporting time paid 
  • Licenses for disabled workers 
  • Record retention 
  • Cash shortage and breakage 
  • Meals and lodging 
  • Meal periods 
  • Rest periods 
  • Overtime pay

The 17 wage orders include details for the following industries and occupations:

  1. Personal Services 
  2. Canning, freezing and preserving 
  3. Professional, technical, clerical, mechanical and similar occupations 
  4. Public housekeeping 
  5. Laundry, linen supply, dry cleaning and dyeing 
  6. Mercantile 
  7. Industries handling products after harvest 
  8. Transportation 
  9. Amusement and recreation 
  10. Broadcasting 
  11. Motion picture 
  12. Industries preparing agricultural products for market, on the farm 
  13. Agricultural operations 
  14. Household services 
  15. Certain On-Site Occupations in the Construction, Drilling, Logging and Mining Industries 
  16. Miscellaneous Employees
  17. More information on each wage order may be obtained through the Department’s website at:

Wage order postings for any of the industries and occupations listed above may be obtained free of charge through the Department of Industrial Relations website at: