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California Wage and Hour Laws

California Wage and Hour Law Governs Employee Pay
California wage and hour law essentially governs all wage issues for California employees.  California wage and hour laws encompass the payment of wages, adherence to state minimum wage guidelines, commissions, overtime pay, rest breaks, meal periods, alternative work week schedules, on call pay, travel time wage, requirements for time keeping, itemized wage statements and many other areas of California employee pay.  California wage law does provide recourse and resolution procedures for employees who are experiencing employer abuses or an employer’s failure to comply with California wage laws and guidelines.  Our California wage and hour attorneys offer a free case review for potential wage claims related to employer violations.

California Exempt vs. Non Exempt Employee Status
A key component of the intent of California wage and hour laws is the regulation of overtime provisions as it relates to properly classifying employees.  California employees are classified as either “exempt” or “non- exempt.”  The definition of a California exempt employee is one who is not entitled to overtime, and is thus “exempt” from receiving overtime pay.  California exempt employees are also not subject to the vast majority of California wage and hour laws (i.e. rest breaks, meal periods, overtime wages, and the like).

In contrast, a California “non exempt” employee is in fact entitled to overtime pay.  California’s overtime provision is that an employee shall not be employed more than eight hours in any workday or more than 40 hours in any workweek unless he or she receives one and one-half times his or her regular rate of pay for all hours worked over eight hours in any workday, and over 40 hours in the workweek.   Additionally, if an employee worked in excess of 12 hours in any workday, such employee is entitled to double time, or in other words two times their base rate of pay.

California Exempt Tests:  Duties and Salary
There are two primary areas that determine whether a California employee is exempt from overtime.  The “salary test” and the “duties test” must be met, or the employee is deemed to be non-exempt and therefore entitled to overtime wages.  Under California law, the “duties” test requires that the employee be primarily engaged in exempt duties, including the exercise of independent discretion and judgment.  The employee must engage in exempt duties more than 50% of the time, based on the actual measurement of time.  A mere job title provided by an employer does not make a position exempt from overtime under the “duties test”.  The “salary test” means an employee is paid no less than two times (twice) the state of California minimum wage for full time employment.  Much like a job title/job description chosen by an employer, simply paying an employee a salary does not make that position exempt from overtime. Experienced California wage and hour attorneys are able to review both the duties test and the salary test and determine if there is an employee misclassification and if an employee is truly exempt from overtime.

California Exemptions and Wage Orders
An exemption means that California overtime law does not apply to a particular classification of employee.  There are three basic exemptions under California law: Executive, Administrative and Professional, each with their own separate detailed requirements.  California law also provides for special exemptions for Computer/IT Professionals, Caregivers, and Salespersons, among others. These exemptions also have their own set of detailed rules.  If your employer has you classified under one of these exemptions, and you feel that you maybe improperly classified as exempt, a qualified California wage and hour attorney is able to review your legal matter and potential claim.

In addition to exemptions, certain wage orders as directed by the Industrial Welfare Commission in California may mandate that certain types of jobs performed by employees are exempt from overtime, or partially exempt under certain conditions.  Our Resources page provides a helpful link to the California Wage Orders by Industry if you would like to review this topic more thoroughly.

Our California Wage and Hour Attorneys
California wage and hour laws regarding exempt status can be complex in nature.  All employees are considered non exempt in California and entitled to overtime unless a specific exemption or wage order applies. The burden of proof for classifying a California employee as “exempt from overtime” is on the California employer.  Failure by employers to abide by these California wage and hour laws is a serious offense, which may result in damages for unpaid wages, interest, penalties and attorney fees.   Yet many California employers are still misclassifying their employees as exempt from overtime, whether unintentional or purposefully to save on operating costs.  A California wage and hour attorney is available to provide a free evaluation of your potential claim regarding employee exempt status. 


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