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Labor Laws for Salaried Employees in California

Written By: Mo Eldessouky Updated On: April 16, 2024 | Read Time: 6 Minutes

Whether you’ve worked your full-time job for months or decades, you’ve got rights if you’re a salaried employee. California labor laws for salaried employees, in many cases, ensure that you’re covered if your employer acts in an unbecoming way or deprives you of pay.

There are a lot of emotions that come up when your employer does something that they shouldn’t have done, and if you’re wondering whether you can sue, you might be able to. It isn’t necessarily easy to navigate all the laws and regulations in California, but when you find professionals to help you, it’s more manageable.

Eldessouky Law understands that it’s hard to figure out what to do after your employer has acted out of line. Because of this, we’re committed to serving our clients in the best way possible, so that they can overcome what has happened and be compensated for the damages they’ve endured.

Let’s explore the ins and outs of labor laws for salaried employees in California, here.

What Are the California Labor Laws for Salaried Employees?

In California, there are labor laws that require employers to pay salaried employees a certain amount, labor laws that regulate overtime payments, labor laws that regulate when employees should be paid, and more.

Before we get into the details regarding labor laws in California, call our law firm or fill out our short contact form. It’s best to get moving when it comes to acting on disputes with your employer, and our team is ready to help field any questions that you might have. Now, Let’s get into things in more detail.

What are the Basic Labor Laws in California?

To understand the basics of labor laws in California, it’s important to know some standard information about the laws that protect you in the state. According to California law, employers must abide by the following pay-related laws when it comes to salaried employees:

  1. As a salaried exempt employee, you must make at least double the yearly amount that a minimum wage hourly worker would make working a 40-hour work week each week. 
  2. Beginning in 2023, California established that the minimum wage in the state is $15.50 an hour; however, depending on where you’re located, it might be more.
  3. Therefore, also established in 2023, it has been determined that salaried employees are qualified to be exempt workers if they make at least $64,480 a year.

It is important to note that these numbers have been rising over the past few years. In terms of the salary required to be paid to exempt employees, in 2021 it was $58,240; in 2022, it was $62,400; and this year, in 2024, it is $66,560. These figures are only applicable to employers that have 26 employees or more, however, so if your employer is smaller, these laws might not be applicable—though contact our law firm for more information if you work for a small employer.

Exempt Employees: The Basics

If you’re wondering “What exactly is an exempt employee?” then you should know that an exempt employee is one who does not have to be paid overtime. That means exempt employees can work more than 40 hours in a work week, and they do not have to be compensated for each hour over 40 hours they work. There are pros and cons to this.

Pros that Come with Being an Exempt Worker

  • More often than not, your employer will sponsor different benefits, whether those be health insurance, life insurance, other types of insurance, 401Ks and retirement plans, or bonuses.
  • Your pay is more than hourly workers’ are.

Cons that Come with Being an Exempt Worker

  • It is possible that you’ll be overworked without the possibility of overtime pay.
  • Your hours, then, might be longer.

So, if exempt employees do not have to be paid for overtime hours, that means that non-exempt employees do have to be paid extra for overtime hours. From here, let’s discuss some more information about non-exempt employees.

Non-Exempt Employees: The Basics

For employees in California who are considered non-exempt, your employers are required to compensate you according to California’s minimum wage laws. As of this year, the minimum wage in California is $15.50, which means that if you are salaried and non-exempt, you should be paid no less than $620 a week and $32,240 a year, as this is how much minimum wage pays at 40 hours a week.

The good news is that if your employer asks you to work overtime and you’re a non-exempt employee, by law you must be paid a time and a half. In other words, once you’ve reached 40 hours, you must be paid minimum wage x 1.5 for any additional hours. So, if you work 5 hours overtime, you will be paid your initial $620 for 40 hours and an extra $116.25 ($15.50 x 1.5 x 5), totaling $736.25 for that week.

As we look ahead, you should know that the minimum wage in California has been consistently increasing. In 2021, it was $14.00 an hour, and in 2022, it was $15.00 an hour. Now, in 2023, the minimum wage is $15.50. If you’re curious: the reason that minimum wage consistently increases in the state is because each year there is a yearly review that determines if—or if not—the minimum wage should be raised. Over the past few years, it has been determined minimum wage should rise.

Are There Exceptions to the Salaried Exempt Employees Laws?

We’ve established that salaried exempt employees must be paid at least $64,480 a year, as of 2023. However, in some instances, there are exceptions to this rule. That is, for physicians, each professional must earn at least $97.99 an hour, and for those who work with computers, these professionals must make at least $112,065.20 a year. There are a few other professions that have unique rules and regulations around salaries, so this list is not exhaustive.

Can Gender Factor into Pay in California?

After the California Equal Pay Act, it became unlawful for men and women to be paid differently based on gender. Of course, some factors can affect the salaries of both men and women. Employees can be paid different wages based on seniority, merit, education/experience, or other achievement-based factors.

In order for a man to be paid more than a woman (or vice versa) it must be proven that the pay gap is based on something other than sex. Therefore, it must be proven that said employee brings experience, education, or something else to the table that other employees do not.

When Can an Employer Reduce Salary?

There are a few instances when it would be legal for an employer to reduce the salary of an employee. Generally, this will be due to issues like a drop in sales. Despite this, if an employer reduces the salary of a female employee, and then doesn’t also reduce the salary of a male employee, then this would be unlawful.

So, if your employer reduces your salary for a lawful reason, it is legal, but if there is discrimination involved, it is not legal—and you can take action.

Can an Employer Discriminate Against Me for Discussing My Salary?

Many employees might find it appropriate to discuss their salaries with their coworkers to ensure that they are getting paid fairly. If you do this, you might get worried that your employer can take legal action against you.

The good news is, your employer cannot take action against you if your discuss your wages, if you discuss someone else’s wages, or if you talk to other employees about the California-mandated right to talk about your wages in the workplace.

Do I Need to Be Given a Certain Number of Breaks During the Workday?

Even if your employer is adhering to all of the payment-specific laws in California, there are a few other laws related to breaks that they could violate. If you’re a salaried exempt employee in California, you are not entitled to a certain amount of breaks. However, if you’re a non-exempt worker in California, you do have an entitlement to a certain amount of breaks each shift.

So, When Can I Sue My Employer?

Now that we have been over labor laws in California for salaried employees, you are more informed about your rights in the state. To be concise, here are a few instances that would make you entitled to sue your employer:

  • If wages are withheld.
  • If you are paid under the federal minimum wage (depending on your location and type of employment).
  • If you are paid inequitably based on sex.
  • If you are unlawfully terminated (i.e. you talk about our wages in the workplace and your employer decides to fire you).

Although this list is thorough, if you believe that your employer has committed an infraction against you, it doesn’t hurt to reach out to an employment lawyer to get more information.

Need to Take Action? Contact Eldessouky Law

We’ve discussed some basic information about labor laws for salaried employees in California. If you feel that your employer has violated any of these laws, it is your right to take action to get the justice that you deserve. At Eldessouky Law, we are committed to serving you.

We pride ourselves in solving any dispute that’s causing you stress—you shouldn’t have to live with the anxiety that comes with an abusive or unethical employer.

If you have questions about your rights as an employee in California or wish to discuss your case confidentially with one of our experienced employment attorneys, contact our office at 714-409-8991 or fill out one of our contact forms online.

We are available for video conference calls

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