Q: What are the differences between California labor law and federal labor law?
A: The primary difference between California and federal labor law is that generally, California labor law is much more favorable to workers’ rights than is federal law. The 2022 minimum wage in California ($15) is higher than the federal minimum wage ($7.25). California requires workers get paid for all hours worked, whereas federal labor law allows uncompensated hours for tasks that are “ancillary” to the employee’s primary job duties. Workers who are misclassified as independent contractors in California can recover hefty penalties under the California labor code, whereas federal labor law has no penalties recoverable by workers.
California also requires employers provide reimbursement for all business expenses, whereas federal labor law allows an employer to refuse to pay business expenses as long as workers are earning minimum wage (once you factor in owed reimbursement for business expenses). California requires unpaid meal and paid rest breaks, whereas federal law does not. California guarantees workers a certain number of sick days, and any vacation days they earn can be cashed out at the end of their employment. Federal law has no similar mechanism.
Lastly, federal law strictly ignores time that employees are forced to work off-the-clock if it is in smaller than, generally, a 10-minute increment. California off-the-clock law does not adopt this federal de minimis doctrine, and will compensate smaller amounts of time if they add up to a larger amount.