The federal government requires employers to pay a minimum hourly wage to most employees. Each state handles minimum wage slightly differently; some states' minimum wage match the federal government's, while others exceed the requirement. In California, most workers must make $8 an hour, or about $16,000 per year. As of 2011, this is higher than the federal minimum wage.
Minimum Wage Amount
Presuming an employee works 40 hours per week, California's minimum wage translates to $320 per week. Since there are 52 weeks in a year, most California workers therefore earn a minimum of $16,640 per year before taxes and other deductions. This amount does not include any bonuses, tips or benefits workers may earn over the course of a year.
Some jobs in California require workers to earn a minimum amount per month rather than a minimum hourly wage. For example, in 2011 sheepherders must earn a minimum of $1,333.20 per month, which comes out to $15,998.40 per year -- slightly less than the annual minimum wage for workers not subject to this requirement. These workers may receive other benefits such as meals or lodging to make their salaries more equivalent to other workers, but employers cannot offer these benefits instead of the minimum monthly wage.
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Federal Minimum Wage
As of 2011, the federal minimum wage is lower than California's minimum wage. Employers in California must follow California law; they cannot pay a worker the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour instead of the $8 per hour California requires. However, if in the future the federal minimum wage rises to above $8 per hour, employers will have to follow this law rather than state law; employers must always follow the law that provides the higher minimum wage.
Waiters in California are not exempt from minimum wage laws. Employers must pay them $8 an hour as well as allow them to collect tips. A restaurant may enforce a policy of dividing all tips among all wait staff rather than allowing a waiter to keep all tips given to him. However, employers may not pay a waiter less than $8 per hour and expect his tips to make up the difference between his pay rate and the minimum wage. This applies to all workers who receive tips from customers.