California employment laws require most employers to play by the same rules when it comes to things such as overtime, minimum wage, and compensating for meal breaks. However, California employment law has made a few job classifications exempt from receiving legal protection. Exempt employees do not benefit from the same protections that California wage and hour laws provide for a vast majority of employees.
However, exemption from California wage and hour laws does not mean an employee works for nothing or slaves over a project without compensation for 14 straight hours. Exempt employees in California typically enjoy higher wages than the state’s minimum wage.
Definition of Exempt
Three easy to understand legal requirements determine the exemption status of a California worker:
- An employee receives compensation that is at least two times the state minimum wage for full-time work
- Primary work duties encompass executive, professional, or administrative duties
- The job requires the use of independent judgment when prioritizing work tasks
Remember that an employee must meet all three requirements to be classified as exempt from California wage and hour laws.
The three requirements are not an end-all discussion for determining the exempt status of an employee. California wage and hour law also grants exemptions to professionals that work in specific jobs.
- Union workers
- Truck drivers
- Private school teachers
- Commissioned employees
- Physicians and surgeons
- Outside sales representative
- Computer consultants
Each of the specified jobs has its own test to determine the status of a worker. The unique tests are conducted apart from the general three requirements for determining whether a worker is exempt from California wage and hour laws.
Exempt Jobs in California
The job-specific exemptions require workers to meet the criteria established by the California Department of Labor Standards Enforcement (DLSE)
Eligible union workers must work under the legal guidelines written into a collective bargaining agreement. A collective bargaining agreement must specify employment terms that include wages, working conditions, and the number of hours worked. The written agreement should also include legal stipulations for overtime pay.
Truck drivers that transport hazardous materials or any materials moved between California and another state receive an exemption from California wage and hour laws. The federal government controls terms like wages, hours worked, and job conditions.
Private School Teachers
Many California teachers qualify for an exemption by meeting all three of the general requirements. Private school teachers qualify for an exemption by earning at least the state’s minimum wage, which changes to a uniform $15 an hour starting on January 1, 2023. Another way to receive an exemption is to teach students ranging from kindergarten to 12th grade.
Employees that earn commissions are exempt if they earn more than one and a half of California’s minimum wage, as well as earn commissions that are more than half of the employee’s annual compensation.
Physicians and Surgeons
Physicians and surgeons that earn a wage of at least $84.79 per hour receive an exemption from the wage and hour protections enforced by the DLSE. They also have to complete healthcare tasks that require a license.
Outside Sales Representatives
California employment law defines an outside sale representative as a professional that is at least 18 years old. A sales rep must spend more than 50 percent of a working day away from the primary place of employment selling products, services, and./or contracts.
Computer consultants must work on projects that are considered creative or intellectual under California employment statutes. They also must have discretion when deciding which project to take on, as well as independent judgment when making business and technical decisions.
How to Handle a Misclassification
Employees have three options to handle an employer that misclassifies their exemption status. First, they can submit an informal dispute with their employer. Second, they can file a wage claim with the DLSA. Third, they have the option to file a lawsuit in a civil court.
The most effective way to fix a misclassification of your exemption status involves working with a California-licensed employment attorney. A lawyer reviews your claim to confirm that you qualify for an exemption from wage and hour law protections. Receiving the right employment status is important to ensure you get all the protections granted to you by California wage and hour laws.