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California Exempt Employee Salary Minimum (2024 Update)

The minimum salary for exempt employees in California is tied to the state’s minimum wage. Generally, exempt employees must earn a monthly salary equivalent to no less than two times the state minimum wage for full-time employment.
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C.L. Mike Schmidt Published by C.L. Mike Schmidt

What is an Exempt Employee?

According to WLC, California labor laws mandate that most employers adhere to specific regulations, such as paying overtime, monitoring hours, and providing rest breaks [1].

Some types of jobs, however, are exempt from these requirements. An exempt employee is someone whose job is not subject to one or more sets of wage and hour laws.

Determining whether a worker is an exempt employee under California law typically involves three key criteria:

  1. Minimum Salary: The employee must receive a salary that is at least twice the state minimum wage for full-time employment.
  2. White Collar Duties: The employee’s primary responsibilities must involve administrative, executive, or professional tasks.
  3. Independent Judgment: The employee’s job duties must require the use of discretion and independent judgment.

Meeting all three requirements usually results in the employee being classified as “exempt” from overtime, minimum wage, and certain rest break requirements (though not meal break requirements). However, there are numerous exceptions and nuances to this classification test.

Additionally, some jobs are subject to a different test altogether, and certain employees may only be partially exempt, meaning they are protected by certain labor laws but not others.

Also Read: California Wage Statement Requirements

How Many Hours Can a Salaried Exempt Employee be Forced to Work in California?

In California, salaried exempt employees must be paid at least twice the minimum wage, currently amounting to a minimum annual salary of $49,920, to qualify for exempt status. However, this exemption does not impose any legal restrictions on the number of hours salaried exempt employees can work per week, as stipulated by federal and California laws.

California labor laws also ensure that employees receive one day of rest per seven-day workweek. Employers are generally prohibited from requiring employees to work more than six days each week, with exceptions made for emergencies or when the nature of the work necessitates continuous operations. Employers should note that providing adequate rest days to employees remains their liability even if employees voluntarily waive their right to rest days.

While there is no legal limit on the number of hours salaried exempt employees can work, employers have the option to override salaried exempt status and switch to an hourly rate under specific conditions. For instance, if a salaried exempt employee fails to meet work requirements, an employer can legally revoke their exempt status and reclassify them as hourly, making them eligible for overtime pay.

Finally, employers are required by California law to maintain accurate records of hours worked by salaried exempt employees for three years. Employees have the right to request these records, emphasizing the importance for employers to have an organized recordkeeping system.

Also Read: California Statutory Employee

Which Wage and Hour Protections Do Not Cover Exempt Employees?

Exempt employees in California are not subject to California overtime laws.

This means that if you are classified as an exempt employee, your employer is not obligated to pay you time-and-a-half wages for working:

  • More than eight hours in a workday,
  • More than 40 hours in a workweek, or
  • More than six consecutive days in a workweek.

Furthermore, California employers are not required to provide regular meal and rest breaks to exempt employees, as they are for non-exempt employees.

Non-exempt employees are entitled to:

  • An unpaid 30-minute meal break for working more than five hours, and
  • A paid 10-minute rest period for every four hours worked.

Is There a Minimum Salary for Exempt Employees in California?

According to SCLG, as of 2024, the minimum annual salary to qualify for an exempt employee in California is at least $66,560 [2]. This salary has increased significantly in recent years:

Year Minimum Salary for Exempt White-Collar Workers at Employers with 26 or more employees Minimum Salary for Exempt White-Collar Workers at Employers with 25 or fewer employees
2021 $58,240 $54,080
2022 $62,400 $58,240
2023 $64,480 $64,480
2024 $66,560 $66,560

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References:

1. https://www.worklawyers.com/exempt-vs-nonexempt-employees-california/
2. https://www.shouselaw.com/ca/labor/wage-and-hour/salary-laws/

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