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When is it legal for employers to pay less than minimum wage?

The government developed the nation’s minimum wage requirements to ensure that workers receive fair pay for the work they provide. All state governments, including those in California, enforce the minimum wage by imposing penalties upon employers that fail to comply. Fair pay is one of the most important employment law mandates as it helps families care for their loved ones.

With that said, there are some situations in which employers may pay their workers less than minimum wage. If you are receiving less than the state’s minimum wage, take steps to make certain your employer is not violating your rights. Consulting with an employment law attorney is a good way to do so, especially if you believe your rate of pay is not consistent with the law.

  • Apprentices: Employers in compliance with the State Division of Apprenticeship Standards may legally pay a reduced minimum wage to apprentice employees.
  • Learners: Eligible employers may pay a reduced minimum wage to workers in training or in a “work-to-learn” situation. However, this is only during the first 160 hours of employment at which point, the rate of pay must increase.
  • Disabled workers: Eligible employers may pay disabled workers less than minimum wage in some cases. It is very wise to make sure an employer is compliant with the state’s employment law in these situations to avoid being taken advantage of.
  • Family workers: Employees that are related to an employer may be paid less than the minimum wage. Examples include parents children and spouses of employers. Some students who also work may be paid a reduced rate.

Those who believe that they are not receiving a legal pay rate can find help by talking with an employment law professional. This ensures that a worker’s rights remain protected.


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