Misclassified as Exempt Employees

What Is Employee Exempt/Non-Exempt Classification?

Similar to the matter of California employees being misclassified as exempt independent contractors is the issue of non-exempt employees being incorrectly classified as “exempt,” or not subject to important California wage and hour laws that establish standards for minimum wage, overtime and meal and rest breaks.

When non-exempt employees are misclassified as exempt, they are unfairly stripped of the protections they are rightfully entitled to under California labor law. If you believe you have been misclassified as exempt by your employer,  you may have grounds to file a wage and hour lawsuit for unpaid overtime, missed meal and rest breaks and other damages. Contact our California employment law attorney at Davtyan Law Firm today to explore your options for legal recourse. 

What is an Exempt Employee?

In California, “exempt employees” are employees to whom important California wage and hour laws do not apply, while non-exempt employees are protected by these laws, which set strict standards for workers’ pay, hours and working conditions. It is important to understand that your employer cannot categorize you as exempt simply by paying you a salary rather than an hourly wage or by having you sign a contract stating that you are an exempt employee.

In the state of California, you are only considered exempt if you meet the specific requirements under the California Labor Code, which defines an exempt employee as an employee who:

  • Is primarily engaged in executive, professional or administrative duties;
  • Earns a salary equivalent to at least twice the California minimum wage rate for full-time work; and
  • Regularly and customarily exercises discretion and independent judgment at work.

The largest class of exempt employees in California consists of professional, executive and administrative employees who earn at least twice the California minimum wage rate – known as the “white collar exemption.” Other exempt workers in California may include:

  • Computer software professionals
  • Outside salespersons
  • Doctors and surgeons
  • Private school teachers

misclassified as exempt employee

Filing a Worker Misclassification Lawsuit

California wage and hour laws are complex and not all employees understand the difference between exempt and non-exempt, or how being misclassified as exempt could affect their employment rights. For example, it is a common misconception that any employee paid a regular salary or holding a position with “executive” or “administrative” in the title is considered exempt under California labor law, but that is not the case.

Unfortunately, some employers intentionally misclassify non-exempt employees as exempt, to avoid paying overtime wages or to avoid providing regular meal or rest breaks, among other unlawful practices.

If an employer incorrectly classifies a non-exempt employee as exempt, the employee has the right to file a wage and hour lawsuit for unpaid overtime, minimum wage violations, meal and rest breaks that were never provided, interest, attorney’s fees and court costs.

In cases where an employer misclassifies a number of employees, a class action lawsuit may be brought against the employer on behalf of multiple plaintiffs similarly affected by the employer’s actions. Wage and hour class action lawsuits typically involve unpaid wages and failure to pay overtime to employees misclassified as exempt.

Our California Wage and Hour Law Attorneys Can Help

Under California law, exempt employees may not be eligible for overtime wages or meal or rest breaks and an employer’s intentional misclassification of employees as exempt is often financially motivated. However, taking into consideration the penalties associated with misclassifying employees, employers who do so intentionally, end up paying more if they are caught violating California labor law.

For more information about exempt and non-exempt classifications in California, or to discuss your case with a knowledgeable California wage and hour attorney, contact Davtyan Law Firm today. Our legal team has extensive experience protecting the rights of California employees and will work tirelessly to help you pursue the compensation you deserve.

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Based in California, we focus exclusively on employment law, protecting employees' rights. We handle a broad range of employment disputes including wrongful termination, harassment, discrimination, retaliation, wage and hour issues, among others.

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