What Are Considered Part-Time Hours in California?

working part time California

American workers are the backbone of this country.

Employees spend hours working over a burning hot grill, waiting tables, working on assembly lines, delivering packages in time for the holidays, and a multitude of other tasks required to keep our economy going.

And despite all this, they are frequently taken advantage of by greedy companies.

It is because our workers are so important that we at Ottinger Employment Lawyers fight for them every day.

When an employer tries to violate the rights of a worker, they are plucking at the strings that bind us all together.

Today, we will be discussing a common tactic that employers use to cheat workers out of rightly earned pay and benefits. That tactic is the misclassification of employees as part-time workers. 

Upon reading this, one of the first things you may wonder is, What is considered part-time in California? Today, we seek to clarify this and other issues.

If you have questions or would like to speak with a California employment attorney, please contact us today.

How Many Hours Is Considered Part-Time In California?

Is 32 hours full-time in California? What about 40? Is there a limit at all? Generally, part-time means less than 40 hours per week in California.

That said, there really isn’t a California law that sets a hard line for full-time employment. The California Labor Market Review refers to 35 hours or less as part-time, but again, this is more of a guide than a rule.

On the Federal side, the Affordable Care Act defines full-time as at least 30 hours or 130 hours per month. Part-time hours in California usually vary by employer.

Many employers make an honest effort to properly classify their employees, but some don’t.

How Do Employers Use Part-Time to Discriminate?

You may have heard that part-time employees do not get the same protection against discrimination as full-time workers— but this is false.

California takes discrimination seriously. Know your rights and keep a lookout for attempts to use your part-time status as a reason to discriminate against you.

Let’s go over some common ways part-time employees are taken advantage of.

Minimum Wage

Part-time workers are subject to the same minimum wage regulations as full-time employees.

California’s minimum wage is $13 per hour and $14 per hour for organizations with more than 26 employees.  The Federal minimum wage is $7.25 per hour.

Despite what you may have been told, you can’t waive your right to minimum wage, even if you only work part-time. 

Break Periods

Some part-time workers are told they are not entitled to breaks. The truth is, you can take meal breaks and rest periods even if you’re part-time.

Typically, you may take a ten-minute break for every four hours worked. You should also be able to take a thirty-minute meal break if you’re working for more than five hours, and two meal breaks when working more than ten.

Contact Us Schedule your consultation today. Schedule your consultation today.


If you’re part-time, that doesn’t mean you can’t get paid overtime. Contrary to popular belief, employers often ask “part-time” employees to work more than 40 hours.

Regardless of whether you are considered part or full-time, working overtime may entitle you to time and a half or even double your regular pay.

That said, there are some exceptions to overtime regulations for certain positions. Most of these exceptions are for executive and professional positions.

Shift Work

California requires extra pay, called a premium, for split shifts. These are shifts that are broken up throughout the day.

Working four hours in the morning and four at night is an example of a split shift. Many part-time employees are asked to work split shifts. Fortunately, the regulations don’t prevent part-time workers from split shift premiums.

Benefits & Pay

California requires that employees receive pay that is equal to the pay of their colleagues that perform substantially similar work.

Substantially similar means work that is similar in skill, effort, and responsibility; and that is performed in similar conditions.

For example, two cooks are likely performing substantially similar work, even if one is part-time. Some employers may try to limit your benefits and pay based on your part-time status, but this is not an exception to equal pay.

The California Equal Pay Act prohibits this type of abuse. 

How a California Employment Lawyer Can Help

Many workers are told that they are not eligible for the same benefits and rights as their full-time companions, but we want you to know that this is false.

You still have most of the same rights as other employees when you work part-time hours in California. If your employer is using your part-time status to cheat you out of your pay and benefits, give us a call.

Ottinger Employment Lawyers know how important workers are. Our employment attorneys have decades of employment law experience. We want to help you fight back against unfair employers.

Contact us today for your consultation.

Where You Can Find Our LA Office

Where You Can Find Our SF Office

Author Photo

Robert Ottinger, Esq.

Robert Ottinger is an employment attorney who focuses on representing executives and employees in employment disputes. Before starting his firm, Robert slugged it out in courtrooms trying cases for the government. Robert served as a Deputy Attorney General for the California Department of Justice in Los Angeles and then as Assistant Attorney General for the New York Attorney General’s Office in Manhattan.