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Exempt vs. Non-Exempt Employees

California Lawyers for Wage and Hour Matters

Whether you are an exempt or non-exempt employee is an important distinction. How you are categorized as a worker will determine whether you are protected by California wage and hour laws. If you are a non-exempt employee, not exempt from the security provided in connection with minimum wage, overtime, and meal and rest breaks, you are protected by wage and hour laws. Often, non-exempt workers do not exercise significant control over their own work time. Exempt employees are those to whom wage and hour laws, such as overtime and rest breaks, do not apply. If you believe that you are not receiving rights to which you are entitled, you should consult an experienced California wage and hour lawyer. The Nourmand Law Firm has 20 years of experience in enforcing workers’ rights.

Exempt vs. Non-Exempt Employees

The California Labor Code defines employees who are exempt from wage and hour rules. However, you cannot be turned into an exempt employee through a provision in your employment contract or because an employer decides to pay you a yearly salary, rather than an hourly wage. Classes of employees who are exempt from wage and hour rules are:  (1) professional, administrative, and executive employees; (2) employees who earn commissions; (3) other professionals.

You may have been misclassified as an exempt employee when you are actually a non-exempt employee. Sometimes employers intentionally fail to abide by their obligations to workers. In other cases, companies do not realize that they have misclassified a worker as an exempt employee when he or she was subject to wage and hour laws.

Professional, Administrative, or Executive Employees

In order to be exempt from wage and hour laws as a professional, administrative, or executive employee, your primary duties must be primarily professional, administrative, or executive. You must regularly and customarily use discretion and independent judgment at work. You must earn a salary that is equivalent to at least twice the California minimum wage for full-time work. You are not a professional employee in this class simply because you work in an office, or you are paid a salary. Additionally, registered nurses are non-exempt employees unless they are mostly involved in executive or administrative tasks.

Employees Who Earn Commissions

Your employer does not need to follow wage and hour rules if you are an employee who earns commissions. In order to qualify under this category, you would need to earn more than 1½  times the minimum wage and earn more than half of your pay from commissions. For example, if you are a salesperson who receives a commission for each sale that you make, you may be exempt from overtime rules.

Other Exempt Employees

Certain other professionals are exempt from overtime rules as well. These include software programmers, hardware designers, doctors, and private school teachers. There are intricate rules associated with these different subclasses of workers. For instance, in order to be exempt as a software programmer, you must be mostly engaged in intellectual or creative work that involves the exercise of discretion and independent judgment, highly skilled in the application of specialized information to computer systems analysis or software programs or engineering, and compensated at a certain minimum annual salary. An entry level employee still acquiring skills does not count as a computer professional for the purposes of wage and hour rules. However, the requirements for salaries for different types of professionals under this exception are different. Doctors, for instance, have a different annual minimum salary requirement to be exempt.

Consult a California Attorney for a Wage and Hour Issue

Your employer must follow certain rules when paying you, based on how you are classified. It cannot decide whether workers are exempt or non-exempt employees according to its own preferences. If you are concerned about whether you are getting properly paid for the work that you do for an employer, you should consult our experienced California attorneys. For more than 20 years, the attorneys at The Nourmand Law Firm have represented workers in wage and hour claims in Los Angeles, San Bernardino, and Riverside Counties, as well as Oakland and Sacramento, among other areas. Complete our online form or call us at 310-553-3600 or 800-700-WAGE (9243).

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