Our Blog

Read about legislation, cases, law news on how our
work is helping our clients.

Most everyone understands that the law requires employers to pay employees a certain minimum hourly wage. As previously discussed in this blog, California mandates a higher minimum wage than federal law, and certain jurisdictions set even higher minimum wages than state law. However, these minimum wage requirements, along with other wage and hour laws, only apply to employees who are classified as “non-exempt.”

On the other hand, employers are not expected to pay “exempt” employees a certain amount for every hour worked. Exempt employees will receive a set salary – even if their hours vary or they work well over 40 hours a week. For this reason, many employers seek to classify employees as exempt to avoid compliance with certain wage requirements. 

Requirements for Exemption

Employers cannot simply decide when an employee is exempt or non-exempt. Instead, there are two major requirements for an exempt employee under California law:

  • The employee is primarily engaged in certain duties that fall under an exemption
  • The employee earns a monthly salary that is equal to at least two times what the state minimum wage would pay for full-time employment

Increased Minimum Salary

The minimum salary for exempt employees in California is not arbitrary. Instead, it is tied to the minimum wage laws in the state, which recently increased again. This means that the minimum salary for exempt employees also increased as of January 1, 2019. 

The minimum wage in California increased to the following this year:

  • Employers with 26 or more employees = $12.00 per hour
  • Employers with 25 or fewer employees = $11.00 per hour

Because there are two different minimum wages, there will also be two different minimum exempt salaries depending on the size of the employer. 

For employers with 25 or fewer employees, the minimum salary would be twice what someone earning the $11.00 minimum wage would earn for a full-time work week. The calculation goes as follows:

$11.00 per hour x 40 hours per week x 52 weeks per year x 2 = $45, 760 minimum exempt salary

For larger employers, the calculation is:

$12.00 per hour x 40 hours per week x 52 weeks per year x 2 = $49,920 minimum exempt salary

Once an employee earns the minimum salary, the following requirements must also be met regarding this salary:

  • The salary must be guaranteed or predetermined despite a possible reduction in work
  • The employer may not reduce the salary based on the quality or quantity of the employee’s work

Once an employee meets the salary requirements, the test then turns to the duties of the employee to determine whether an exempt status is appropriate and legal. If an employee is misclassified as exempt, the employer may owe them a significant amount in unpaid overtime wages. 

Discuss Possible Misclassification with a California Employment Law Attorney 

At the Mara Law Firm, we represent employees in California in cases involving misclassification, unpaid overtime, and more. If you would like to discuss a possible overtime claim with an experienced California employment lawyer, please call (619) 234-2833 or contact us online today. 

Share here...

FREE CASE REVIEWRequest Consultation

Fill out the form 24/7 and our legal team will immediately reach out to you about your situation


This page has been written, edited, and reviewed by a team of legal writers following our comprehensive editorial guidelines. This page was approved by attorney David Mara who has more than 20 years of legal experience in employment law.

  • I remember screaming at a dear friend of mine saying, “WHY WON’T THE INSURANCE COVER MY TREATMENT!” He said, “…because they know if they do it will increase your settlement.” I said, “WHAT SETTLEMENT! I JUST WANT TO GET TREATMENT! I DIDN’T ASK FOR A SETTLEMENT!” Somewhere I f...

    Mara Law Firm ClientSan Francisco

  • He represented me and many old CO-workers. They were very professional & I’d recommend them to anyone. Great Lawyers for the forgotten working man.

    ScottSan Francisco

  • I would definitely recommend David and really appreciated all the hard work he contributed. David really went the extra mile to help his customers. We were very happy and satisfied with his services. Thank you David!

    Mara Law Firm ClientSan Francisco

  • Mr. Mara was a pleasure to work with. He kept me in the loop. Can’t say enough how good it feels to have someone fighting for you, giving you a voice.

    AlbertSan Francisco

  • I was blown away by the results my case got. It far exceeded my expectations. Not only do you get someone who is a great professional; but he will fight for what you deserve. I was uncertain in the beginning; now I’m a believer. Mr. Mara is also personable. Lisa his paralegal was tremendous throughout the whole process. Sh...

    Jerome HarrisSan Francisco

  • Mr. Mara and his firm helped me file a claim for death benefits on behalf of my late husband. I was very pleased with his knowledge, research, and representation regarding my DBA claim for death benefits. I would absolutely recommend him and his associates to my friends, family, and others needing an attorney who specializes in ...

    Sally A ChandSan Francisco

  • Dave Mara did an outstanding job on my DBA case. Dave, I personally want to thank you for guiding me in the right direction and having a successful case outcome. God bless you for all the effort you put into my DBA case. Words can’t describe how thankful I am. Thank you for helping injured overseas contractors.

    Jim Joned San Francisco

  • Mr. Mara and his staff were very professional and I would highly recommend Mr. Mara. Mr. Mara had my best interests in settling my case and I am very appreciative of all he and his staff did for me. If I ever needed help or had simple questions, Mr. Mara and his staff were always available to take my calls and help me. Highly re...

    DebSan Francisco

  • Dave Mara comes with a very high recommendation. He took a workmans compensation case for me and really handled it well. It was an unclear case and a new issue that the WC most likely had never seen. He kept me up to date with the long confusing process and was very understanding and sympathetic to my plight (I was the victim of...

    Linda DSan Francisco

View All Testimonials

Request your confidential & free case consultation

If you are in need of employment litigation attorney in California or have been injured overseas while under a military contract and are in need of a defense base act attorney. Please fill out the form below and contact us immediately for a FREE consultation.

all fields are required*