Recent news stories about the recycling industry reported that it can be rife with wage and hour violations. Whether it is the nature of the work done by employees, or the relative newcomer status of the industry, employers of all types and sizes must treat their employees fairly. This means that they must pay workers for the time they put in, including overtime hours. There are reasons that overtime laws were put into existence, an important one being that employees were working dangerously long hours without pay. Employers notoriously proved themselves to be unable to self-govern in the area of worker safety and equity, and this ineptitude led to protections being written into law. Violations of worker safety laws, including overtime provisions, are a serious matter and can lead to litigation, fines, and significant penalties.

California Overtime Laws

State law prohibits employers from requiring that their employees work more than eight hours per day, or more than 40 hours per week, unless they are paid an overtime wage for the hours in excess of this amount. Overtime wage in California is equal to one and one-half times the employee’s regular rate of pay. For example, if an employee earns $15 per hour during a regular work day, if he or she works more than the allowable hours per day or week, he or she must be paid $22.50 per hour for each additional hour of time worked. In addition to this, California law requires that any employee is entitled to double his or her rate of pay per hour if the hours worked are in excess of 12 hours on any day, and “for all hours worked in excess of eight on the seventh consecutive day of work in a workweek.”

Penalties for Violation

There are some employers and jobs that are exempt from these requirements, but the majority of employers in the state are covered and must strictly abide by these rules. Furthermore, an employee may not “waive” his or her right to overtime pay. Once an employee works hours that fall within overtime laws, that employee must be paid for his or her time despite any agreement by the employee to work for the regular rate. An employer’s failure to follow these laws and pay an employee what he or she is owed (also known as back pay) can have serious consequences.  Employees who believe that they have been unfairly withheld their rightful wages can file a lawsuit requesting not only the pay for the hours worked, but also penalties on top of the backpay owed. Employees are entitled to recover back pay in situations involving more than overtime situations, as well. California employers must allow employees to have break periods and a 30 minute unpaid meal break for every five hour period they work. 

California law also protects workers from being paid late, including post-termination.  Employers must ensure that their employees’ receive their pay in full and one time. For example, if an employee is entitled to $10 per hour, but only receives the equivalent of $8 per hour, that employer is in violation of California law and the employee is entitled to recover every dollar owed to them and may also be entitled to “waiting time penalties.” These penalties are in addition to the back pay owed to the employee and are charged against the employer for each day it is late in paying the employee in full.


If you are an employer and need guidance on California’s wage and hour laws, call the professionals at Garcia & Gurney today. Our attorneys are skilled in all areas of labor law and can help you craft your policies and practices to ensure compliance with the law now and into the future. We can also help you with any litigation filed by an employee who is alleging that he or she has not been paid a fair wage.