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Administrative Employee Exemption

Per the California Department of Industrial Relations, when referencing the administrative exemption of overtime laws, an “administrative employee” is defined as follows:

A person employed in an administrative capacity means any employee:

  • Whose duties and responsibilities involve either:
    • The performance of office or non-manual work directly related to management policies or general business operations of his or her employer or his or her employer's customers, or
    • The performance of functions in the administration of a school system, or educational establishment or institution, or of a department or subdivision thereof, in work directly related to the academic instruction or training carried on therein; and
  • Who customarily and regularly exercised discretion and independent judgment; and
  • Who regularly and directly assists a proprietor, or an employee employed in a bona fide executive or administrative capacity, or
  • Who performs, under only general supervision, work along specialized or technical lines requiring special training, experience, or knowledge, or
  • Who executes, under only general supervision, special assignments and tasks, and
  • Who is primarily engaged in duties which meet the test for the exemption.
  • An administrative employee must also earn a monthly salary equivalent to no less than two times the state minimum wage for full-time employment. Full-time employment means 40 hours per week as defined in Labor Code Section 515(c).

Here are some examples from the State of California of types of employees who might be exempt from overtime laws if they meet the above listed criteria:

  • Employees who regularly and directly assist a proprietor or exempt executive or administrator. Included in this category are those executive assistants and administrative assistants to whom executives or high-level administrators have delegated part of their discretionary powers. Generally, such assistants are found in large establishments where the official assisted has duties of such scope and which require so much attention that the work of personal scrutiny, correspondence and interviews must be delegated.
  • Employees who perform, only under general supervision, work along specialized or technical lines requiring special training, experience or knowledge. Such employees are often described as "staff employees," or functional, rather than department heads. They include employees who act as advisory specialists to management, or to the employer's customers. Typical examples are tax experts, insurance experts, sales research experts, wage rate analysts, foreign exchange consultants, and statisticians. Such experts may or may not be exempt, depending on the extent to which they exercise discretionary powers. Also included in this category would be persons in charge of a functional department, which may even be a one-person department, such as credit managers, purchasing agents, buyers, personnel directors, safety directors, and labor relations directors.
  • Employees who perform special assignments under only general supervision. Often, such employees perform their work away from the employer's place of business. Typical titles of such persons are buyers, field representatives, and location managers for motion picture companies. This category also includes employees whose special assignments are performed entirely or mostly on the employer's premises, such as customers' brokers in stock exchange firms and so-called "account executives" in advertising firms.

Regarding the requirement for the exemption to apply that the employee "customarily and regularly exercises discretion and independent judgment," this phrase means the comparison and evaluation of possible courses of conduct and acting or making a decision after the various possibilities have been considered. The employee must have the authority or power to make an independent choice, free from immediate direction or supervision and with respect to matters of significance. With respect to the administrative exemption, this phrase has been most frequently misunderstood and misapplied by employers and employees alike in cases involving the following:

  • Confusion between the exercise of discretion and independent judgment, and the use of skill in applying techniques, procedures, or specific standards.
  • Misapplication of the phrase to employees making decisions relating to matters of little consequence.
  • Perhaps the most common misapplication is the application of the exemption to employees engaged in production aspects of the employer's business as opposed to administrative functions.

Caveat. As with any of the exemptions, job titles reflecting administrative classifications alone may not reflect actual job duties and therefore, are of no assistance in determining exempt or nonexempt status. The fact that an employee may have one of the job titles listed above is, in and of itself, of no consequence. The actual determination of exempt or nonexempt status must be based on the nature of the actual work performed by the individual employee.

Are You a Misclassified California Employee? You May Be Owed Back Overtime Pay

Our California employment law experts at Fernandez & Lauby LLP may be able to help you claim back overtime wages that you are owed. Our attorneys are offering a free review of your compensation schedule to determine if you are currently classified and being paid properly under California law.

Contact Fernandez & Lauby LLP for a no-cost consultation and our lawyers will fight for your legal rights as an employee. You can reach us online or call our toll free phone number at 888-959-8508.

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