What gives an employee exempt status in California?

In California, your job falls into one of two broad categories: exempt and non-exempt. Your exemption status is a deciding factor for things such as overtime, paid time off, breaks and other labor laws.

To be an exempt employee in the state of California, you must meet a few criteria. It is important to understand the difference between the two categories, as employers may misclassify exemption status to avoid certain labor laws.

Job category

Exempt positions in California tend to be upper-level and are often management-related. Several common job categories are generally considered exempt. While this is not a complete list, you are probably an exempt employee if your job title falls into one of these categories:

  • Professional, such as doctors, lawyers or accountants
  • Administrative, such as secretaries and assistants
  • Executive, such as chief officers and directors
  • Freelance/Contractor

Job salary

To be exempt, you must make an annual salary that is equivalent to twice the state’s minimum hourly wage for a year’s worth of 40-hour work weeks. The current minimum wage for employees in a California organization that has 26 or fewer employees is $14, so you must make a salaried income of $58,240 to meet exemption criteria in a small business. Companies with more than 26 employees pay a minimum wage of $15 per hour, so your annual salary must be $62,400 to be exempt in a larger business.

It is important to understand California’s two employment exemption categories to ensure that you are receiving proper pay and treatment in your workplace.