GrahamHollis APC

Has your boss wrongly classified you as exempt?

How often have you stayed at work past your scheduled quitting time? You may be able to calculate many hours a week that you should be spending with your family, but instead, you've had to finish projects or take care of other tasks. Unfortunately, your paycheck never gets any bigger no matter how many hours you put in.

Your employer may explain it to you by saying you are an exempt employee -- or that you're a manager -- so you are not eligible for overtime pay. This may seem to make sense, but it's important to have a clear understanding of the difference between exempt and nonexempt workers.

Understanding where you fit by law

The first thing to know is that exemptions relate to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). Employees who are afforded certain protections of the FLSA are considered to be nonexempt employees. That means they are not exempt from the protections of the law.

In California, employers are required to pay nonexempt employees 1.5 times their regular rate of pay for every hour worked over eight in a single workday.

Additionally, on the seventh consecutive day of work in a workweek, employers are required to pay nonexempt employees 1.5 times the regular rate for the first eight hours of work.

Employers are additionally required to pay double a nonexempt employee's regular rate for all hours worked above 12 in a workday and for all hours worked above eight on the seventh consecutive day in a workweek.

You can see why an employer would want to classify you as exempt, especially if you often work past your scheduled hours. Nevertheless, an employer may not simply decide that you are exempt, and the reality is that many employees are misclassifed as "exempt" just so the employer can avoid paying them what they're owed.

Employers also misclassify employees as exempt to avoid providing rest breaks that are provided to nonexempt employees.

What are the requirements for an employee to be legally classifed as "exempt?"

In California, exempt employees must meet specific requirements, including:

  • An exempt employee's salary must be at least twice the state minimum wage for a full-time employee. 
  • Exempt employees must have certain authority, such as playing a role in the hiring or firing of other workers.
  • Exempt employees usually have duties that are administrative or executive in nature.

In other words, if your employer promotes you to a salaried position, but your duties remain the same as those of other hourly workers, you may not legally be an exempt employee. This could mean your employer has misclassified you, and you are losing money with each paycheck. If you are confused about your classification, you would be wise to seek the advice of an attorney. Your time is as valuable as anyone else's, and you deserve to receive a fair wage according to the law.

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