California Wage and Hour Laws for Restaurant Workers | Mann & Elias
Skip links

California Wage and Hour Laws for Restaurant Workers


Working in a restaurant is a tough and demanding gig. It requires a great deal of energy, diligence, and patience. You may be working to put yourself through school, to gather the experience to launch your own bistro, or simply to support yourself and your family. No matter the reason why you work in a restaurant, you deserve to be treated with dignity and respect. You should also be paid according to the wage and hour laws of California.

Many restaurateurs exploit their workers. The industry lends itself to this kind of injustice because it is relatively low-paid work and most individuals in restaurants rely on tips. This makes it easier for owners to devise schemes and policies designed to pay workers less than what they deserve. If you are being mistreated by your employer, you should fight back. This starts by hiring a lawyer for the employee discrimination you have endured at the workplace. 

Wage and Hour Laws in California

Wage and hour laws establish the standards for minimum wages, tips, and regulations concerning overtime, meals, and rest breaks. They set out clear rules and guidelines for employers and employees, so that each party understands their duties and obligations.

Although the Fair Labor Standards Act sets policy for the nation, California has its own wage and hour laws. Employers are subject to the state law, which tends to be much more generous toward employees.

Minimum Wage in California

California has some of the most progressive minimum wage laws in the country. As of the beginning of 2020, the minimum wage in the state is $12 an hour for employers with up to 25 employees and $13 for companies with 26 or more workers. In 2021, these numbers will go up to $13 and $14 respectively, and there will be an annual increase until 2023 when all employees must receive $15 an hour.

If you work in a restaurant, you probably receive tips of some kind. The standard practice is for frontline workers, including bar tenders, wait staff, and cooks to share the tips. In most states, employers are allowed to pay employees below minimum wage with the understanding that they will make up the difference in tips.

This is not the case in California.

In California, restaurant workers are entitled to full minimum wage for every hour worked. You should receive this wage in addition to whatever money you earn in tips.


You are also entitled to overtime. Restaurant work can be extraordinarily busy, and the availability of staff unsteady. If you are compelled to work a double shift, then you must be paid for it. You should be paid overtime if you work more than eight hours in a day or more than forty hours in a week. If you work more than 12 hours in a day, your employer must, according to California law, pay you double time. If you work seven days during the week, the employer must on the seventh day pay you time and a half for the first eight hours and double time for each additional hour worked.


Your employer must also give you breaks. You must receive a thirty-minute unpaid meal break every five hours, and a second thirty-minute break if you are scheduled to work for more than ten hours on the same day. The only exception to this is if the workday is less than twelve hours.

There are times that you may, as a restaurant worker, receive a thirty-minute paid meal break. This is common if the restaurant is exceptionally busy and the shift is not fully staffed. You may need to grab bites of your food while still serving customers. In these circumstances, a paid meal break is permitted.

Employees are also entitled to a paid ten-minute break for each four hours worked.

If You Have Been Treated Unfairly

You should never surrender your rights to your employer. If you are being underpaid or not receiving the breaks and other allowances you are entitled to, then you should fight for them. An employment attorney in Los Angeles can help.

Going up against your employer can be a frightening prospect, especially if you are new to the industry. However, you should not be cheated out of what you have earned for the sake of enriching the restaurant. If you are not being paid minimum wage or you are not receiving overtime despite working extra hours, then you should take up the matter directly with your manager. It may all come down to an administrative error. This happens all the time, and an honest management team will ensure the mistake is corrected and that you receive all the pay you are entitled to.

If this does not work, if your complaints are dismissed or you are threatened with termination for complaining about wages and conditions in the restaurant, then you will need to escalate the matter. You need not take on the restaurant alone. Hiring a Los Angeles workplace lawyer should be your first act.

Your Time, Your Wages, Your Rights

Many restaurant owners are ambitions, ruthless, and scrappy. While it is true that many of them have scrimped, saved, and sacrificed to open their own business, there are some among them who believe they are entitled to abuse and exploit the people who work for them. Do not allow yourself to be bullied and cheated. The law is on your side, and you should use it to fight for your rights.

A lawyer will know how to deal with a restaurateur who refuses to follow the law. If you are being mistreated, your colleagues are probably being mistreated as well. And there are no doubt former employees who have gone through the same thing. A Los Angeles lawyer for wage and hour violations will interview all such individuals. They will subpoena crucial documents from your employer and will look for previous complaints filed against them.

At the beginning of your engagement with an attorney, they may be representing only you. In the end, you might find that all of your colleagues have legal representation as well, willing to take action against an owner operating outside the law. If you are being underpaid and abused in your place of work, you can trust Mann & Elias to help you.


    This website uses cookies to improve your web experience.
    Call| Text |