Bartz Law Group

Employee Rights Advocates

Exempt vs. non-exempt employees in California

Exempt vs. non-exempt employees in California

California labor laws for salaried employees protect non-exempt workers. However, there are two types of workers in California; exempt and non-exempt.  

The difference between the two types of workers is based on various factors, such as duties, pay structures, etc. While non-exempt employees are protected under California labor laws for salaried employees, exempt employees are protected under federal law.

How to Determine Employment Status

Your employment status is dependent on several factors, including

  • Income;
  • Job title; and
  • Duties.

The law sets the guidelines for what constitutes exempt and nonexempt employees.

1. Salary limits

Employees who receive an annual salary of $58,240 or less are considered non-exempt. The salary limit for companies with 25 or fewer employees is $54,080 a year for nonexempt employees.

The aforementioned limit or rule should be a guideline and not an absolute. In other words, employers and labor commissioners use this rule to determine employment status.

2. Job titles

Some jobs are more likely to earn exempt status than others under California law. Management and executive positions are more likely to be exempt than lower-rated jobs. Although exempt jobs are many common jobs that are considered exempt, including people working as executives, administrators, managers, and various professionals.

Executive titles

Executives hold the most senior positions in most companies. Small and medium-sized companies have few top-level employees who’d be considered exempt, but large companies, especially corporations, can have hundreds of executives. Common exempt executives can include:

  • Chief Executive Officers;
  • Chief Financial Officers;
  • Chief Operations Officers;
  • Departmental Vice President;
  • Directors;
  • Board Members, and
  • Regional/National/International Director or Managers.

Administrative Titles

Administrative roles can vary by the company and the job description. However, most administrative jobs fall under the exempt category in California. Common exempt administrative jobs in California include:

  • Executive Secretaries;
  • Personal Assistants;
  • Senior Assistants;
  • Administrators, and
  • Assistants/Directors/Managers.

Professional Titles

Professional employees are typically considered exempt. Many professional jobs are in the same group as executive and senior management jobs for purposes of labor relations. Common professional jobs can include:

  • Lawyers;
  • Doctors;
  • Consultant;
  • IT Managers, Database Managers, and Webmasters; and
  • Senior Accountants, among others.

Although professional jobs are usually considered exempt, you shouldn’t always trust the job title alone to determine your employment status. Consult with a labor law attorney to be sure about your employment status.

 3. Terms of Engagement

Most jobs are classified as exempt, including:

  • Freelance workers;
  • Independent contractors;
  • External sales professionals, and
  • Some IT and tech workers

The above-listed jobs are considered exempt, but there can be exceptions. That said, you should check with a labor lawyer instead of assuming that all is well.

Rights of Exempt and Nonexempt Employees in California

Exempt and nonexempt jobs attract certain rights and responsibilities in California. Those rights and obligations can impact your job in addition to determining your employment status or classification.  California labor commissioners consider the benefits, perks, and tangible benefits that an employee enjoys determining classification or employment status.

In California, employees are either exempt or non-exempt. A skilled labor attorney can help you determine your employment status.