Some employees in California are exempt from overtime protections – but most are entitled to them. But what can you do if your employer misclassifies you as an exempt employee when you’re really a nonexempt employee? This guide explains.
What to Do if Your Employer Misclassifies You as An Exempt Employee
Sometimes employers make mistakes, and sometimes job descriptions evolve over time – but if you’re actually a nonexempt employee who isn’t receiving overtime pay, there’s a problem.
An exempt employee is one who isn’t entitled to overtime pay, but even if your employer says you’re exempt, that doesn’t mean you actually are. In order to be exempt, you must fall into one of these categories:
- Executive, administrative or professional employees whose primary duties are executive, administrative or professional. You must regularly and customarily exercise your own discretion and independent judgment at work, and you must earn at least twice the state minimum wage for a full-time, 40-hour workweek.
- Computer professionals, doctors and surgeons, private school teachers, government employees, University of California employees, and outside salespeople who meet certain criteria. (An attorney can give you specific guidance if you’re in one of these professions.)
- Employees who earn commissions. These employees must earn more than 1.5 times the state minimum wage and earn more than half their pay through commissions.
If you’re not sure whether you’re exempt, you should call an attorney for advice.
A Word on Job Descriptions of Exempt Employees
When the state of California is determining whether someone is exempt from overtime protections, it doesn’t rely only on the job description. It relies instead on the actual duties that person performs on a daily basis. For example, if your job description says that your job is all about administrative duties and that you can exercise your own judgment at work but you spend most of each day doing other jobs (outside your job description’s scope), you may be considered a nonexempt employee under California law. That means that you are entitled to overtime pay – and if your employer hasn’t been paying you overtime wages, you could be entitled to back pay and additional compensation.
But I Get Paid a Salary!
Just because you receive a salary doesn’t mean that you’re automatically an exempt employee. There are many salaried workers who don’t meet the exemption criteria. For example, if your job doesn’t allow you to exercise your own discretion or use independent judgment, even if you receive a salary instead of hourly pay, you’re most likely not an exempt employee. You are most likely entitled to overtime pay.
What if I Signed an Employment Contract That Says I’m Exempt?
Even if you signed an employment contract that says you’re exempt, the law has the final say – not your employer. If you don’t meet the criteria for being an exempt employee, the contract you signed won’t hold up.
Things to Do if Your Employer Misclassifies You as an Exempt Employee
If your employer has misclassified you, you have a couple of options. You can talk to your employer about the mix-up, hoping that it wasn’t intentional, and explain the situation. You can also fast-forward and call an employment attorney in Los Angeles who’s familiar with these types of cases – and who knows what to do to get an employer to understand exemptions.
Are You Entitled to Compensation for Misclassification as an Exempt Employee?
If you were misclassified as an exempt employee, you could be entitled to financial compensation. That may include backpay (such as unpaid overtime). You may also be entitled to compensation for meal and rest breaks that you didn’t get during the time of your employment. Your employer may reclassify you as a nonexempt employee moving forward, which means you’ll be entitled to overtime protections, meal and rest breaks, and other protections under California law, as well.
Do You Need to Talk to a Lawyer About Your Employer Misclassifying You as an Exempt Employee?
If you believe your employer has misclassified you as an exempt employee, we may be able to help you. Call our office at 818-230-8380 to schedule a free consultation with an experienced professional who can give you the legal advice you need right now.