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Home » Blog » Per Diem Employee Rights California Explained (2024)

Per Diem Employee Rights California Explained (2024)

Posted on December 15, 2023 | By Omid Nosrati | Employment Law

While many are familiar with full-time and part-time employment, per diem employment is often a lesser-known concept. The benefits of per diem employment can be incredibly helpful to some employees, but it is also possible for employers to take advantage of those who don’t know their rights. Understanding what you are entitled to as a per diem employee with a California employee rights lawyer can help you avoid mistreatment at work.

What Is Per Diem Employment?

Per diem, or “per day” in Latin, typically means work that is scheduled as it is needed. Employers often utilize per diem employees when they have short-term assignments or require varying amounts of work throughout the year. There are many benefits to this style of employment, including:

  • Flexibility: Employees who have a lot going on might appreciate the flexible work schedule of per diem employment. It might also be beneficial for employees who struggle with the predictability of a 9-5 job. Some employers allow their per diem employees to schedule their own shifts, which can help them juggle other obligations.
  • Pay: Due to the inconsistency in hours, some per diem employee roles pay more than if the role were to be completed by a traditional employee. This means that per diem employees can work with multiple companies at once and potentially earn more money working the same amount of hours.
  • Experience and Growth: It is also possible for an employer to eventually hire a per diem employee on a more full-time basis, depending on their performance. Certain roles allow employees who are new to the workforce or a specific field to gain experience while being paid for their efforts.

Unfortunately, there are also several downsides to being a per diem employee, especially considering:

  • Job Security: Per diem employees are asked to work when there is work available, making them the most vulnerable during slow seasons or economic downturns. The amount of hours available to work might vary considerably depending on the time of year or current events.
  • Benefits: Employers are not legally required to offer the same benefits to per diem employees. While many receive minor benefits like sick leave, they might have to cover certain benefits like health insurance completely out of pocket.
  • Cohesiveness: Due to a per diem employee’s schedule, they might not feel as connected to their coworkers because they might not see them as often. They might also feel like they have less ground to stand on when considering filing harassment or discrimination complaints against their employers.

Per Diem Employee Rights

While per diem employees do not have the same rights as other employees, there are still certain things they are entitled to, including:

  • Minimum Wage: Per diem employees must make at least minimum wage in California. The exact figure varies due to the employer’s size and location.
  • Overtime: An employee is considered to be working overtime if they work over 8 hours per day or over 40 hours per week. Per diem employees typically qualify for overtime pay unless they are exempt from overtime based on their role and industry.
  • Breaks: Similar to other employees, per diem employees should be given compensated 10-minute breaks for every 4 hours they work. If they work for more than 5 hours in one day, they should also be given a 30-minute break for meals, but this might not have to be compensated depending on whether or not the employee is on-site during the break.
  • Filing Complaints: If a per diem employee experiences discrimination or harassment in the workplace due to their identification in a protected class, they have the right to file a complaint. They are also legally protected from facing retaliation due to filing a complaint or reporting illegal activity taking place at work.


Q: What Are the Per Diem Rules in California?

A: Per diem employment is typically used when an employer has a role with flexible hours that might change from week to week. Unlike independent contractors, people who work per diem are often employed by the company they work with. Although their hours differ from other types of employees with set schedules, employees who work per diem are still entitled to many of the same rights that other employees have, including breaks and overtime pay.

Q: Do Per Diem Employees Get Benefits in California?

A: Employers are not required to provide the same benefits to per diem employees as they do to their other employees. Many employers offer some benefits like sick leave and a retirement plan like a 401(k). California law requires some benefits to be paid out to specific employees depending on the nature of their employment. Each employer is different regarding per diem benefits, so a potential employee must review their contract to understand specific benefits.

Q: Does a Company Have to Pay Per Diem in California?

A: In certain contexts, per diem payments relate to expenses that employees might incur while traveling for work. An employer must reimburse an employee for any costs related to their job. Every company is different, and some outline specific limits on per diem payment amounts. Others highlight specific requirements like approved hotels and airlines. Before spending any money related to work, an employee should review their company’s per diem policy.

Q: What Are the Pros and Cons of Working Per Diem?

A: Some employees enjoy being able to have flexible schedules to accommodate other things in their lives like education or family. It can also be a helpful way for an employee to gain experience in a desired field without having to commit to a full-time job. However, most per diem employees receive fewer benefits than standard employees and lack consistent hours, meaning that paychecks could vary considerably from month to month.

Let Us Help Your Cause

Per diem employees can struggle with feeling like they don’t belong to their work group. Don’t let your employee status affect your legal rights. Schedule a consultation to understand your options as a per diem employee. The attorneys at Nosrati Law, A Professional Corporation, have experience in cases related to wages, overtime pay, and other issues facing per diem employees.

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About the Author
Omid Nosrati

Mr. Nosrati been selected as one of the Top 100 Labor and Employment lawyers in the State of California for 2016, 2017, and 2018 by The American Society of Legal Advocates (ASLA). He has a “Superb” (10 out of 10) rating on Avvo and a 4.9 out of 5.0 Peer Rating from other lawyers on Martindale Hubbell. Omid Nosrati is also a member of the respected California Employment Lawyers Association, Los Angeles County Bar Association, and Santa Monica Bar Association. He is a firm believer in education, loves to read about technology trends in the legal field and leverages his firm’s technological strengths to benefit each of his firm’s clients.