Employer Responsibilities

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Wages, Breaks and Retaliation

Employers in California have to pay workers properly. This includes allowing workers to take breaks according to the law, paying overtime, providing accurate pay statements and more. When workers ask about their pay or working conditions, it is illegal for employers to take certain actions against the worker for exercising their rights. Use the information below to know what is required and what rights workers have.


Employers must pay workers at the rate that was promised, either in writing or verbally.

Employers have to notify workers when they will paid and how much they will be paid.

Workers must be paid an hourly rate that equals at least the state’s minimum wage. The minimum wage usually increases each year. You can find the current state minimum wage and local minimum wages on the Labor Commissioner’s website.

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Tips are separate from regular pay and cannot be counted as wages. Tips belong to the employees they were left for and cannot be taken by managers, supervisors or owners.


Most California workers must receive the following breaks:

  • An uninterrupted 30-minute unpaid meal break when working more than five hours in a day.
  • An additional 30-minute unpaid meal break when working more than 12 hours in a day.
  • A paid 10-minute rest period for every four hours worked.

Certain workers, such as domestic workers and farm workers, are covered by different meal and rest break laws. Additional information on meal periods and rest periods can be found on the Labor Commissioner's website.

When working outdoors, workers have additional rights to prevent heat illness. Employers must allow outdoor workers to take a break whenever needed to cool off in the shade. Cal/OSHA has more information on cool down rest breaks in the shade and other heat illness prevention requirements.


It is illegal for employers to retaliate against workers. Retaliation can take many forms but always involves an adverse action from an employer against a worker for using their labor rights. This can include reducing a worker’s pay, changing their schedule or making threats about calling immigration authorities because a worker exercised their labor rights. In California, it is illegal to retaliate against a worker based on their immigration status.

When workers notify the Labor Commissioner of retaliation, an investigation can be opened that might result in an order stating the wages and penalties due to the worker and possibly helping them get their job back.

Additional information on retaliation and discrimination can be found on the Labor Commissioner's website.


September 2023

The Department of Industrial Relations is a resource for small businesses. Contact us for information and assistance with workplace requirements.

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