Frequently Asked Questions

Commonly Asked Questions

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  • What is the minimum wage in San Diego County?

    The minimum wage in the City of San Diego is $16.85 per hour. In the rest of San Diego County, as well as the state of California, the minimum wage is currently $16.00 per hour.

    For more information about the City’s minimum wage, please see For more information about the state’s minimum wage, please see

  • What is the Working Families Ordinance (WFO)?

    WFO requires contractors working on County construction projects for work performed by a combination of multiple trades over $1 million, or over $25,000 when all work is performed by an apprenticeable occupation, to adhere to the following requirements:

    • pay prevailing wages
    • utilize a skilled and trained workforce
    • provide paid sick leave

    Not retaliate against workers The ordinance requires County lessees to:

    • provide their employees with paid sick leave and require their sublessees to provide paid sick leave
    • pay prevailing wage, use a skilled-and-trained workforce, and provide paid sick leave for construction projects lessees perform on County property that are over $1 million
    • use a skilled-and-trained workforce for construction projects lessees perform on County property that are over $25,000 and all of the work is performed by an apprenticeable occupation
    • Not retaliate against workers

    The ordinance does establish exemptions for certain contracts, projects, and leases on County-owned property. For example, exemptions include:

    • Housing projects already in process
    • Agreements with other government or public entities
    • Non-profit entities
    • Ancillary services that are performed less than 8 hours per week in a 12-month period
    • Small business with less than 20 employees per working day in 20 or more calendar weeks in a 12-month period
    • Projects with bargaining agreements

    For more information, please see

  • What can the government do to help me with my work issue?

    There are several local, state, and federal agencies – some with overlapping jurisdiction – that accept employment law complaints:

    ·         The County of San Diego Office of Labor Standards and Enforcement currently accepts complaints related to the Working Families Ordinance, wage theft complaints, Fair Chance Act violations, and county contract requirements.

    ·         The City of San Diego Compliance Department accepts complaints related to the City’s Minimum Wage and Earned Sick Days, Prevailing Wage, Living Wage laws.

    ·         The federal Department of Labor (DOL) administers and enforces more than 180 federal laws. Its Wage and Hour Division accepts complaints for, amongst many other things, wage and hour matters such as minimum wage. This system is mirrored in the state of California: the Department of Industrial Relations enforces many employment laws and its Division of Labor Standards Enforcement (DLSE or Labor Commissioner) accepts complaints for, amongst many other things, wage and hour matters.

    ·         The federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and California Civil Rights Department (CRD, formerly Department of Fair Employment and Housing) have similar jurisdiction: discrimination, harassment, and retaliation in employment.

    ·         The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and its California equivalent (Cal/OSHA) ensure and provide information about worker safety and health

    ·         The California Employment Development Department (EDD) provides information to people seeking unemployment, disability, and California Paid Family Leave benefits. It also can help with finding new employment and accessing job training resources.

  • May I hire a lawyer to handle my issue(s)?
  • What is wage theft and is it a crime?

    Wage theft is the failing to paying of wages or providing of employee benefits rightfully owed to an employee by contract and is a violation of both state and federal labor laws. An employer's intentional wage theft of more than $950 from one employee, or $2,350 total from at least two employees, within a 12-month period, is punishable as a crime. This crime carries a potential prison sentence of up to three years. Civil wage theft can be reported to the Labor Commissioner and criminal wage theft should be reported to the district attorney

  • Am I entitled to meal and rest breaks?

    Yes. Under California law, non-exempt employees are entitled to one unpaid 30-minute meal break, and two paid 10-minute rest breaks, during a typical 8-hour shift. Employees must receive their off-duty meal breaks before the end of the fifth hour of work. Employees must receive 10-minute off-duty rest breaks for every four hours worked (or major fraction of four hours), and the rest breaks should be in the middle of a work period “insofar as practicable.” For more information, see the Labor Commissioner’s frequently asked questions about meal breaks and rest breaks.

  • Does every employer need to have workers’ compensation insurance?

    Yes, every California employer using employee labor, including family members, must purchase Workers’ Compensation Insurance (Labor Code Section 3700). If you fail to have Workers’ Compensation Insurance for your employees, it can be expensive as the DLSE is required to issue and serve a stop order/penalty assessment prohibiting further use of employee labor until you do purchase Workers’ Compensation Insurance. Effective January 1, 2011, the penalty assessed for failure to have Workers’ Compensation Insurance is based upon the greater of (1) twice the amount the employer would have paid in workers’ compensation insurance premiums during the period the employer was uninsured, or (2) $1,500 per employee. However, there are exceptions for partnerships, if the only persons performing labor are the partners and corporations where the corporate officers are the sole shareholders; in which case, the corporation, officers and directors come under the Workers’ Compensation provisions only by election.


    For employees looking to file for workers’ compensation benefits, please see

  • Is sick leave available for COVID-19?

    Yes. 2022 COVID-19 Supplemental Paid Sick Leave provides covered employees up to 80 hours of COVID-19 related paid leave, with up to 40 of those hours for isolation & quarantine, receiving vaccines, and caring for a child whose school or place of care is closed and up to an additional 40 of those hours available only when an employee, or family member for whom the employee provides care, tests positive for COVID-19. For more information, please see and

  • Can employers require their employees to receive be tested for or vaccinated against COVID-19?

    Yes. An employer can (1) mandate that employees get tested and vaccinated and (2) keep unvaccinated employees out of the workplace if the employer determines that the unvaccinated employee poses a “direct threat” due to a “significant risk of substantial harm to the health or safety of the individual or others that cannot be eliminated or reduced by reasonable accommodation.” At the same time, employers must still provide reasonable accommodations and engage in the interactive process with employees who have disabilities and cannot take the vaccine or those with sincerely held religious beliefs in opposition to vaccination.


    Employers should pay for the time it takes for testing or vaccination and reimburse any out-of-pocket expenses. For more information, please see


    To find a vaccination site, please see and

  • Am I owed overtime pay?

    Compensation for all hours worked more than eight hours per day and 40 hours during any one week should be not less than one-and-one-half times the basic rate of pay. For more information, please see

  • What is misclassification?

    Misclassification of workers occurs when an employer improperly classifies their employees as independent contractors so that they do not have to pay payroll taxes, minimum wage or overtime, or comply with other wage and hour law requirements such as providing meal periods and rest breaks. Misclassification, or labeling a worker as an independent contractor when they should be an employee, undermines businesses who play by the rules and basic worker protections like minimum wage, paid sick days, and the safety of workplaces. Additionally, the misclassified worker has no workers’ compensation coverage if injured on the job, no right to family leave, no unemployment insurance, no legal right to organize or join a union, and no protection against employer retaliation. This is a form of fraud. For more information, please see

  • What is retaliation?

    Retaliation is an unlawful form of discrimination that occurs when an employer takes an adverse action against an employee, applicant, or other covered individual because he or she engaged in a protected activity, including filing a complaint with a government agency or in court, or participated in an investigation of alleged workplace misconduct. The following are examples of adverse actions employers might take: discharging the worker; demoting the worker; reprimanding the worker; committing harassment; creating a hostile work environment; laying the worker off; failing to hire or promote a worker; blacklisting the worker; transferring the worker to another job; altering the employee’s responsibilities and duties; denying overtime; lowering pay; denying benefits; making threats; intimidating the worker; and constructively discharging the worker. For more information, please see


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Hours, Meals, or Breaks

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Civil Rights at Work

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San Diego County Employment Law

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