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Review of California's overtime exemptions

Like other states, California recognizes that it might not always be feasible, or even necessary, to pay an employee overtime. As such, California recognizes several exemptions to the rule that an employee who works over the equivalent of 40 hours a week must get 150% of their hourly wage for all overtime hours worked.

On the other hand, the state also recognizes that, unfortunately, many employers take advantage of exempt salaried employees because they can require them to work as many hours as they can. Without some controls, an exempt employee could wind up working for well less than the federal minimum wage.

Because of this, in order to qualify an employee as exempt, an employer must in most cases pay the employee the equivalent of 2 times the state's minimum wage. As the minimum wage for mid-sized and larger employers is currently $12 an hour, this means that a person must receive $4,160 a month, or just under $50,000 a year in order for an employer to exempt him or her from the state's overtime laws.

Of course, the employee must also meet the criteria for being an executive, administrative or professional employee.

In the wake of the federal government's deciding to increase the national salary threshold for overtime exemptions, this is a good time to remind California employees that many of them may have a right to overtime compensation, even if they are paid a regular salary. Unfortunately, many employers in this state may try to bend the rules to avoid paying overtime compensation and thereby save money at their employees' expense. Legal options may be available to victims in these circumstances.

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