Differentiating Between Exempt and Non-Exempt Workers in California

In California, employees are categorized as either exempt or non-exempt. An employee’s classification as either exempt or non-exempt is not a matter of choice or preference on their part or their employer’s part. Instead, California law determines whether an employee falls under the exempt or non-exempt category. It is vital to understand how to differentiate between exempt and non-exempt employees.

How Do You Tell if an Employee is Exempt or Non-Exempt?

The following is what needs to be proven for a worker to be considered an exempt employee;

  • Salary: Generally, workers are exempt if they receive a salary. However, just because an employee gets a salary does not automatically make them exempt. In California, there is a minimum salary for a job to be categorized as exempt. An exempt worker must earn a minimum monthly salary of at least twice the state’s minimum wage. That said, it is crucial to note that some commissioned workers can be exempt, and some workers earning many times the minimum wage may be entitled to overtime pay depending on their job duties.
  • Job duties: Employees who spend at least 50% of their time doing exempt job duties are considered exempt. In most cases, a worker that is not closely supervised is considered to be performing exempt work. However, a worker can still be regarded as non-exempt even if they are not closely monitored. For example, an entry-level truck driver working under minimal supervision may still be considered non-exempt. Typically, exempt workers are those with higher-level positions. The three categories of employees with exempt job duties are professionals, executives, and administrative employees.

As you may have noticed, it can be challenging to tell if an employee is exempt or non-exempt. It is crucial to consult with a qualified employment lawyer before making any assumptions about which category an employee falls under.

Difference Between Exempt and Non-Exempt Employees

You may wonder why knowing an employee is exempt or non-exempt is so important. Under the California labor code, non-exempt employees are protected by various labor laws. These laws govern meal and rest breaks, overtime pay, and minimum wage. On the other hand, exempt employees are not protected by these laws, meaning they are not entitled to overtime pay, meal or rest breaks, or minimum wage.

Minimum Wage

Currently, non-exempt workers in California are entitled to a minimum wage of $15.50 per hour. But, depending on the city or county, an exempt employee may be entitled to more than $15.50 per hour.

Overtime Pay

Non-exempt workers in California are entitled to overtime pay if they work for over eight hours in one day, 40 hours in a workweek, or six consecutive days in a workweek. Overtime pay must be paid at a rate of one and one-half times the worker’s regular pay rate.

Meal or Rest Breaks

Finally, when it comes to breaks, a non-exempt employee has the right to take an unpaid thirty-minute meal break if they work for over five hours. For rest breaks, a non-exempt employee has the right to take a ten-minute paid break for every four hours worked or for every substantial fraction thereof.

Contact a California Employment Lawyer

If you need more information on exempt and non-exempt workers in California, contact a qualified California employment lawyer.