Can I get overtime pay in California if I’m being paid a salary?

The general employment rule in California is that if you work more than 8 hours in a day or more than 40 hours in a week, you are entitled to overtime pay.   However, employers often tell certain employees that they are not eligible for overtime pay because they are being paid a “salary” rather than an hourly wage.  In such situations, the employee is led to believe that he or she is required to work long hours, but without the right to any overtime pay. 

The truth is significantly more complicated.  When employed in California, you start with the presumption that you are entitled to overtime pay if you work overtime hours.  It is the employer’s burden to prove that you are “exempt” from the overtime laws.  The first thing the employer must do is prove that you are being paid enough to qualify for an exemption.  Currently, you must make at least $33,280 annually, or your employer cannot classify you under most overtime exemptions.  That works out to twice the minimum wage ($8 per hour x 2).   If your salary is less than this, than in most circumstances you are going to be entitled to overtime pay.

Assuming you earn enough to qualify for overtime, the employer still has to prove that the type of work that you do fits within an overtime exemption.  The most common overtime exemptions are the executive exemption, the administrative exemption and the professional exemption.  If you fit within the work requirements for these exemptions, then you aren’t entitled to overtime no matter how many hours you work. 

Employers frequently—and probably deliberately—classify employees under one of these exemptions without any appropriate basis for doing so.  For example, to qualify under the “executive exemption” the employee must regularly supervise two or more employees, and have input into hiring, firing or disciplinary actions.  In many cases employers will give an employee a “supervisory” title and pay a salary, hoping that this somehow makes the “supervisor” exempt.  Often in these cases the supervisor is more of a “Lead” and has very little real executive power, and will spend a lot of time performing similar work as his or her subordinates.  In such cases, there is probably a “misclassification” and the “supervisor” may be entitled to a large amount of overtime that has accumulated but has not been paid.  There is similar abuse of the administrative and professional exemption.

If you believe you may have been misclassified as “exempt,” and may have been cheated out of overtime pay, then the Los Angeles employment attorneys at Carlin & Buchsbaum can assist you.  Contact us for more information on overtime employment law in Los Angeles, and how you can get back the wages you have earned.