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Overtime for Salaried/Exempt Workers in California

September 5, 2023 Legal Team

Overtime pay is a crucial aspect of labor laws, ensuring that employees are fairly compensated for their extra hours of work. In California, overtime regulations provide strong protections for workers, but there are specific exceptions in place for salaried or exempt employees.

Definition of Salaried/Exempt Employees

Salaried or exempt employees are individuals who are not eligible for overtime pay under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). They are typically paid a fixed salary regardless of the number of hours worked. These employees are often in professional, executive, or administrative roles.

Exempt vs. Non-Exempt Employees in California

California workers are mainly divided into either exempt or non-exempt employees:


Non-exempt employees are paid at least $15.50 on an hourly basis and entitled to overtime pay for hours worked beyond the standard 8 hours in a workday or 40 hours in a workweek.


To be categorized as an exempt employee, their compensation must be calculated to be at least twice more than the minimum wage required by law for a full-time non-exempt employee. Additionally, they are excluded from receiving overtime and rest breaks.

On the other hand, meal breaks are a requirement for all employees.

Unpaid Overtime for Salaried/Exempt Employees

Some employers might attempt to avoid paying overtime by misclassifying an employee as exempt when they do not meet the criteria outlined in labor laws. For instance:

Inaccurate Job Description

The employer might exaggerate or manipulate the job description to make it appear as if the employee’s duties fall under one of the exempt categories, such as executive, administrative, professional, or computer professional, even if they do not.

Fictitious Authority

An employer may falsely assert that the employee has managerial or supervisory authority, a key criterion for certain exemptions, when in reality, the employee does not have such responsibilities.

Inadequate Salary

The employer might pay the employee a salary below the legally required threshold, hoping that the employee won’t be aware of their rights or challenge the classification.

Failure to Keep Records

An employer may neglect to maintain accurate records of hours worked, making it more challenging for the employee to prove that they are entitled to overtime pay.

If an employer is found to have intentionally misclassified employees to avoid paying overtime, they can face severe penalties, including fines, back wages, and potential legal action. Therefore, it is in the best interests of both employers and employees to ensure proper classification based on actual job duties and salary thresholds.

Rights of Employees Who Have Been Misclassified

If you believe you have been misclassified and denied overtime pay, speak to a trusted Orange County wage and hour law attorney. They can help you file a complaint with the appropriate labor enforcement agency or take legal action against your employer. They will ensure you receive back pay for your unpaid overtime and protect you against retaliation. Employers are prohibited from taking adverse actions, such as termination or demotion, in response to an employee’s pursuit of their rights.