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Which Workers Are Exempt from Overtime Laws in California?


White-collar and managerial employees paid a salary instead of an hourly wage are exempt from California wage and hour laws. Conversely, these laws protect non-exempt workers, giving them rights to rest and meal breaks, and overtime pay.

The primary class of exempt employees includes administrative, executive, and professional workers earning at least twice the minimum wage in California. An employer can’t exempt someone from overtime just because they decide to pay salary instead of hourly. The responsibilities of your job must meet the legal definition of an exempt employee under the California Labor Code.

Who Is Exempt?

Multiple categories of employees are exempt from overtime laws. They include the classes below.

Executive, Administrative, and Professional Employees

The white-collar exemption does not permit an employee to collect overtime pay if they:

  • Have responsibilities of an administrative, professional, or executive nature and use at least 50 percent of their time to complete these tasks;
  • Customarily and regularly exercise independent judgment and discretion at work; and
  • Earn a salary at least twice the minimum wage for a full-time employee in California

The minimum salary for an exempt employee working in a place with less than 26 workers is $58,240 as of January 2022.

Computer Professionals

Employees working primarily in hardware or computer design, computer systems analysis, or program development or design are exempt from overtime laws if:

  • The employee engages in creative or intellectual work primarily, requiring exercising independent judgment and discretion;
  • The employee is highly proficient and skilled in applying highly specialized information to software engineering, computer systems analysis, or programming; and
  • The employee makes at least $104,149.81 a year paid monthly or $50 an hour as of 2022.

Licensed Physicians and Surgeons

Any licensed surgeon or physician primarily engaged in duties requiring licensure is exempt from overtime laws. However, the exemption doesn’t apply to interns, residents, or doctors covered by collective bargaining agreements.

Meeting the exemption requirements means the doctor earns at least $90.07 an hour or the equivalent of a full-time salary as of 2022.

Private Schools Teachers

Teachers who work at a private K-12 school are also exempt from overtime if they earn the greater of one of these amounts:

  • 70 percent of the lowest salary the school district offers to credentialed teachers in the county or city of the private school
  • 100 percent of the lowest salary any school district in California offers to credentialed teachers

Outside Salespeople

An outside sales employee is exempt from overtime laws if they meet the requirements of two tests under the Fair Labor Standards Act. That is, their primary duty must be to make sales, and they must work away from the employer’s place of business regularly and customarily.

Government Employees

Anyone employed by the University of California or a local or state government cannot receive overtime.

Commissioned Employees

Employees earning commissions are exempt from overtime laws if:

  • Commissions make up more than half of their compensation; and
  • They make more than one and a half times the minimum wage.

What Happens When a Worker Is Misclassified?

Unfortunately, misclassifications can occur if an employer doesn’t want to pay an eligible employee overtime. They classify the worker as exempt instead of non-exempt so that person doesn’t meet requirements under the California Labor Law.

In some cases, an employer might ask their employee to agree to the exemption by giving them a contract to sign. The employer knows they won’t have to pay overtime for requiring additional duties outside regular working hours.

If you believe your employer misclassified you, contact a lawyer immediately. You have rights and deserve payment for the work you have done.

How We Can Help 

Since 2004, Wagner Zemming Christensen, LLP, has provided dependable legal services to clients taken advantage of by their employers. We are familiar with the California Labor Code and the Fair Labor Standards Act. Our knowledge of various laws makes us effective in representing workers in cases involving wage and hour violations.

If you want to file a complaint against your employer for the pay you are entitled to, call us today at 951-686-4800 for a confidential consultation with one of our employee rights attorneys in Riverside, CA.

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