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Featured / September 28, 2023

Demystifying California Private and Public Sector Wage and Hour Laws

As a leading employment law firm in California, our mission is to champion the rights of employees who have experienced unfair treatment in the workplace. Among the many issues we handle, wage and hour disputes are common concerns, especially when it comes to understanding the distinctions between wage and hour laws in the private and public sectors. California's labor laws apply differently to employees working in private businesses compared to those in public sector jobs. In this comprehensive guide, we will delve into the disparities between private and public sector wage and hour laws, empowering potential clients to comprehend their rights and pursue just resolutions in their respective workplaces.

Private and Public Sector Employees:

In California, private sector employees work for private companies or organizations, while public sector employees serve in government entities at the local, state, or federal levels. Each sector entails its unique labor laws governing the terms of employment, including wage and hour regulations.

Overtime Pay:

One pivotal difference between the private and public sectors is overtime pay. Private sector employees generally become eligible for overtime pay when they exceed 8 hours in a workday or 40 hours in a workweek. Conversely, public sector employees might be subject to diverse overtime regulations, contingent on their job classification or the specific government agency they serve.

Meal and Rest Breaks:

California labor laws mandate that non-exempt private sector employees must receive meal and rest breaks during their work shifts. For example, employees working more than 5 hours in a workday are entitled to a 30-minute unpaid meal break and a 10-minute paid rest break. However, public sector employees may encounter varying meal and rest break entitlements depending on their job classification and the government agency they serve.

Collective Bargaining Agreements:

Public sector employees often operate under labor agreements negotiated through collective bargaining, which can influence their wage and hour rights. These agreements might result in different wage and hour provisions compared to those in the private sector.

Overtime Exemptions:

Both private and public sectors host certain exempt positions not entitled to overtime pay. Exempt employees are typically executive, administrative, or professional employees who meet specific criteria, such as job duties and salary thresholds. However, the criteria for exempt status may differ between the two sectors, necessitating awareness of one's specific job classification and exemption status.

Record-Keeping and Reporting:

Employers in both sectors must maintain accurate records of their employees' hours worked. Nevertheless, public sector record-keeping practices may be subject to different regulations and guidelines compared to those in the private sector.

Enforcement Agencies:

In California, distinct agencies may be responsible for enforcing wage and hour laws in the private and public sectors. Private sector wage disputes may be handled by the California Division of Labor Standards Enforcement (DLSE), while public sector disputes may involve the Public Employment Relations Board (PERB) or other pertinent government bodies.


Understanding the differences between private and public sector wage and hour laws in California is essential for employees to safeguard their rights and seek justice in the workplace. As a distinguished employment law firm, we are here to guide you through the complexities of wage and hour laws, ensuring your rights are upheld whether you work in the private or public sector. If you suspect that your employer has violated wage and hour regulations, regardless of your employment sector, it is imperative to seek legal counsel to comprehend your rights and pursue the appropriate course of action. By staying informed and proactive, you contribute to cultivating a fair and equitable working environment for all employees in California.

For more detailed and up-to-date information on California labor laws and regulations, please refer to relevant California Labor Code sections (e.g., Section 510 for overtime) and government agencies (e.g., DLSE or PERB) that handle wage and hour disputes. These resources can provide you with a deeper understanding of your rights and responsibilities as an employee in California.

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The information on this website is for general information purposes only. Nothing on this site should be taken as advice for any individual case or situation. This information is not intended to create, and receipt or viewing does not constitute a client relationship.
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