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West Coast Employment Lawyers is open 24/7 and fully operational during the COVID-19 quarantine. We are available to serve all of our personal injury clients, as well as potential new clients. Please feel free to contact us anytime.

Top Ranked

Employment Law Firm in California

Top Ranked

Employment Law Firm in California

Exempt Vs Non Exempt Classification


Legal Rights For Exempt Employees

Legal Rights For Nonexempt Employees

Meal Breaks for Exempt and Nonexempt Employees

Legal Rights For Exempt Employees

California requires that most employers abide by certain rules, such as tracking hours, paying overtime, and providing rest and meal breaks for their employees. However, there are some jobs that are exempt from these requirements. In short, an exempt employee is an employee whose job is not subject to one or more wage and hour laws.

In the majority of cases, there are three requirements which can help determine whether an employee is an exempt employee according to California law:

  • Minimum Salary. An employee must be compensated with a salary that is at least twice that of California’s minimum wage for full-time employment. 
  • Independent Judgment. An employee’s job responsibilities must involve independent judgment and discretion.
  • White Collar Duties. An employee’s job responsibilities must involve administrative, professional, or executive tasks.

If the above requirements are met, an employee will typically be classified as “exempt” from requirements such as minimum wage, overtime, and rest break requirements (this does not include meal break requirements). 

There are also exemptions that apply to certain jobs. The most common job specific exemptions are for:

  • Commissioned employees
  • Private school teachers
  • Outside salespeople
  • Surgeons and physicians
  • Truck drivers
  • Union employees

The above exemptions have their own requirements that are different from the three part test discussed above. And some of these positions will only be partially exempt. It’s worth noting that an employer can only claim an exemption when that employee unmistakably and obviously meets the requirements for that exemption. 

In instances when there is doubt regarding whether an employee is exempt, the law will generally require that an employee be classified as nonexempt.

Legal Rights For Nonexempt Employees 

Federal law requires that an employer must pay all their nonexempt employees an overtime rate of at least 1.5 times the regular hourly wage for every hour that is worked over 40 hours during a standard workweek. Fortunately, California law offers more protections for nonexempt employees than federal law does.

California requires that all employers must pay their nonexempt employees 1.5 times the regular hourly rate of pay for:

  1. Hours worked in excess of eight in one workday.
  2. The first eight hours that are worked on the seventh straight day of work in a workweek.
  3. Hours worked in excess of forty hours in one workweek.

Finally, all California employers must pay nonexempt employees two times the regular hourly rate of pay for:

  • Hours worked in excess of twelve hours in one workday.
  • Hours worked in excess of eight hours on the seventh straight day of work in one workweek.

Meal Breaks for Exempt and Nonexempt Employees

The majority of California employees — this includes most exempt employees — are entitled to one 30 minute meal break if they work for at least five hours in one day. A second meal break must be allowed for any employees who work over ten hours in one day. (Labor Code, § 512)

An employee also has the option of waiving a meal break only if they work less than six hours in one day. Further, an employee can choose to waive a second meal break only if they work less than twelve hours in one day and if their first meal break was also not waived. (Labor Code, § 512)

An employee must also be relieved of his or her job responsibilities during their meal break and he or she must be free to leave work premises. An employee must be paid for his or her meal break if their employer requires them to remain on the employer’s premises. (Cal. Code of Regs., tit. 8, § 11050)

If an employer does not provide their employees a meal break, they must pay their employees one more hour of pay at the regular rate. An employee is only allowed to earn one more hour a day if the employer does not provide them with a meal break. (Cal. Code of Regs., tit. 8, § 11050)

What Can West Coast Employment Lawyers Do For You?

If you have made up your mind to take action, it is important to work with an attorney that specializes in cases like yours. The wage and hour lawyers at West Coast Employment Lawyers have extensive experience handling employment cases. We will work tirelessly to gather the facts, find and interview eyewitnesses, hire experts, and fight for your rights.

We work on a contingency basis, which means we only get attorney’s fees if we are able to recover for you. Our legal team is available 24/7 and will take care of your case from start to finish. For a free no-obligation consultation with a wage and hour attorney in California, contact our office at 1-800-247-9235.


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