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Exempt vs. non-exempt California

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  • Exempt vs. non-exempt California

    I work as a professional (manager title) for a county office of education in CA under an exempt salaried contract. My supervisor has set an office policy that basically says I will be paid a daily rate for days I work a full day (7.5 hours for our COE) or any hours over 7.5 hours, but would be paid an hourly rate if I work under 7.5 hours in a day. The policy requires managers to use their PTO on days worked less than 7.5 hours. Is this legal under CA labor laws? It seems like we are treated as exempt for hours in excess of 7.5 hours, but as non-exempt if we do not work the full 7.5 hours. Just to note, other managers in other departments are not under the same policy and can claim a full days pay regardless of their hours worked.

    Thanks in advance for any clarity on this you may provide.

  • #2
    You have a lot of fairly unrelated things tied up in your question.
    - Exempt and non-exempt are part of a federal law called FLSA. The rules for Exempt Salaried employee are part of FLSA regulations, generally 29 CFR 541.602. However federal DOL is very clear that vacation/PTO handling has nothing to do with federal law. Or the Exempt status for that matter.
    - CA has rules on vacation handling, this being a state issue, not a federal issue. CA-DLSE in their wisdom has been less then clear about the handling of vacation/PTO for Exempt Salaried employees who work partial days. CA-DLSE has said that reducing vacation/PTO balance for an employee who does not work 4 hours is legal, although they cite a court case (Conley) that does not actually say what CA-DLSE says it does. Whatever. CA-DLSE can make up its own rules as long as the courts do not say otherwise, and thus far, the courts do not say otherwise. However, CA-DLSE in their wisdom has failed to state a more general rule about what happens if some amount of time other then 4 hours is missed. People have all sort of guesses what this implies, but people guessing is not law.
    - You mentioned "contract". Everything said so far is "labor law", not "contract law". A legal contract cannot make labor law go away, but could in theory add obligations to the employer that would not otherwise exist. If you think that the contract is important, then you will need to have a local attorney read the contract.
    - You mentioned that you work for the county, meaning a sub division of CA. The rules for governmental employers are different then for private sector employees. CA-DLSE in their wisdom has mostly not made these differences public. What guidance CA-DLSE has issued is mostly private sector specific. I can give you pointers to what guidance CA-DLSE has made public, but you will probably find this inadequate.
    "Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away".
    Philip K. **** (1928-1982)


    • #3
      DAW, you may or may not be aware, but California has more stringent requirements than federal requirements for private sector employees to be correctly classified exempt. Notwithstanding, this employee is in fact a public sector employee and the exempt criteria does not apply. Further, I'm not even certain what PTO/vacation rules would apply for public sector employees. The California supreme court expressly provided that "absent express words to the contrary, governmental agencies are not included within the general words of a statute" (Wells v. ONE2ONE Learning Foundation). With that in mind I, having limited knowledge on public sector, could not say with any degree of certainty what PTO and exempt laws and rules apply here.
      "The most patriotic people in America are the working class" - Cecil Roberts - President UMWA


      • #4
        I used to manage the payroll operation for a large city in Maryland. Under federal law, exempt employees of a government CAN be docked for partial day absences. To my knowledge, California has no laws that override this exception.
        Last edited by Pattymd; 11-17-2009, 04:51 AM.
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