Is there a legal minimum of hours per week in order to qualify as full time in California?
According to the California Department of Industrial Relations, a full-time employee works 40 hours per week.
However, you won’t want to confuse the 40-hour work week with the Affordable Care Act regulations, which identify full-time workers as those who work 30 hours per week. Under the ACA, large employers (those with 50 or more full-time-equivalent employees) are required to offer health insurance coverage to their full-time employees (those working an average of 30 hours or more per week). If these employers do not provide affordable health insurance that provides a minimum level of coverage to their full-time employees, they might be subject to penalties.
*Learn more about ACA compliance.*
To learn how many hours a week is full time or find other information on your state labor laws, refer to the interactive state-by-state map of over 200 Labor Wage and Hour local offices provided by the U.S. Department of Labor Wage and Hour Division.
*Save time and money with our PEO services for SMBs.*
The classification between exempt and non-exempt employees largely pertains to wage and hour laws. In most states, including California, the distinction is crucial because it determines which employees are entitled to overtime pay, minimum wage, and other employment rights. If employees are non-exempt and qualify as full-time employees under California law, they're entitled to certain benefits and protections.
Here's a breakdown of the differences between exempt and non-exempt employees:
It's critical for employers to properly classify their employees as exempt or non-exempt based on both salary and duties tests. Mistakes can lead to legal consequences, a tax penalty, or both. State-specific laws can add layers of complexity, so employers need to be aware of both federal and state regulations when determining an employee's status.
It's possible to have a part-time, exempt employee, as long as they meet the criteria for an exempt status (like salary threshold and duties test). However, in practice, many exempt roles are full-time because of the nature and demands of the job.
Non-exempt employees, whether full-time or part-time, are subject to overtime rules. So, a full-time non-exempt employee who works over 40 hours in a week (or more than 8 hours in a day in certain states) would be eligible for overtime.
California law presumes all employees are non-exempt unless proven otherwise. What exactly does that mean?
Well, it places the responsibility on the employer to demonstrate that an employee fits within one of the exempt categories. This is an essential protection because it ensures that employers don't (accidentally or intentionally) deprive employees of the rights and protections that come with non-exempt status, like overtime pay. If an employer incorrectly classifies a worker as exempt, there could be legal consequences, including back pay for overtime.
If you're employing full-time, exempt California employees, you might consider offering certain perks like vacation pay, additional health benefits, and paid sick leave to eligible employees. Since exempt employees with full-time status might be working more than eight hours without the benefit of being paid overtime, perks like this can help with employee satisfaction, retention, and attracting the right candidates during the hiring process.
The California Employment Development Department is another important resource regarding other state-specific benefits like unemployment insurance and compensation, state disability insurance, and paid family leave.
The history of the standard 40-hour week—for those who work full time in California and every state—started with one of the most influential companies in American history.
On May 1, 1926, Ford Motor Company became one of the first companies in America to adopt a five-day, 40-hour week for workers in its automotive factories. The policy would be extended to Ford’s office workers later that year.
This set the precedent both for blue-collar and white-collar workers. In 1938, Congress enacted the Fair Labor Standards Act, which required employers to pay overtime to all employees who worked more than 44 hours a week. They amended the act two years later to reduce the work week, and the 40-hour work week for full-time employment became U.S. law.
Now that you know how many hours is full-time in California, you may have some other HR questions. For answers, check out all of TriNet's helpful guides, expertise, and resources, and consider using TriNet as your expert PEO. To find out if TriNet's full-service HR solutions are right for you, take our free assessment.