Commission-Based Pay in California: A Comprehensive Guide to Wage & Hour Compliance

Commission-based pay in California - A Comprehensive Guide

Table of Contents


Commission-based pay is prevalent in various sectors, including sales, real estate, and financial services. Understanding California’s specific wage and hour compliance laws for commission-based pay is essential for both employers and employees. This blog post aims to provide a detailed guide to navigating the complexities of commission-based pay regulations in California.

Understanding Commission-Based Pay

What is Commission-Based Pay?

Commission-based pay is a remuneration model where an employee’s earnings are directly tied to the volume of products or services they sell. This structure can motivate employees to excel, offering the potential for higher earnings beyond a fixed salary.

Types of Commission Structures

Commission structures can vary widely, from pure commission models without a base salary to salary-plus-commission models. Understanding the nuances of each can help employees and employers set realistic expectations.

Written Agreements in California

In California, the method for calculating commissions must be clearly outlined in a written agreement. This agreement should specify what qualifies as a commission-eligible sale and when the commission is considered earned.

Minimum Wage and Commission-Based Pay

Compliance with Minimum Wage Laws

In California, the total compensation (salary plus commissions) must meet or exceed the state’s minimum wage for each hour worked. Employers must regularly monitor commission-based employees’ hours to ensure compliance.

Making Up the Difference

If an employee’s earnings fall below the minimum wage, the employer is obligated to make up the difference. This ensures that all employees, regardless of their pay structure, earn at least the minimum wage.

Overtime Pay for Commission-Based Employees

Eligibility for Overtime Pay

Generally, commission-based employees are entitled to overtime pay unless they meet specific exemption criteria. These include earning more than 1.5 times the state’s minimum wage and having more than half of their compensation come from commissions.

Calculating Overtime

Overtime calculations for commission-based employees can be complex. The commission amount is typically divided by the total hours worked to determine the regular rate of pay. Overtime is then calculated based on this rate.

Record-keeping and Pay Stub Requirements

Accurate Record-Keeping

Employers must maintain accurate records for all employees, including those on commission. These records should detail hours worked, total earnings, and the number and amount of commissions earned.

Pay Stub Requirements

Paystub requirements in California
Keep up with your paystubs and the requirements in California

California law mandates that employers provide itemized pay stubs, detailing gross wages, total hours worked, the number of piece-rate units earned, and any deductions.

Common Misconceptions

Commission-Based Pay Exemptions

Many people mistakenly believe that commission-based employees are automatically exempt from overtime and minimum wage laws. This is not the case, and understanding the specific criteria for exemptions is crucial.

How to Protect Your Rights

Stay Informed

Both employers and employees should familiarize themselves with California’s labor laws to ensure compliance and protect their rights.

Seek Legal Advice

If you have questions or concerns about commission-based pay, consult with an experienced employment attorney, Marina Fraigun, for tailored advice.

Recent Legal Developments

Stay updated on any new legislation or court rulings that may affect commission-based pay laws in California.


Are commission-based employees exempt from minimum wage laws?

No, commission-based employees must still earn at least the minimum wage for each hour worked.

How is overtime calculated for commission-based employees?

Overtime is calculated based on the regular rate of pay, which is determined by dividing the total commission by the total hours worked.


Understanding the intricacies of commission-based pay laws in California is essential for avoiding legal disputes and ensuring fair compensation. For further guidance, call Marina Fraigun at Fraigun Law Group today! 


California Labor Code

California Department of Industrial Relations – Commission pay

United States Department of Labor – Fair Labor Standards Act

California Labor Commissioner’s Office – Paystub Requirements



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