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Computers have changed the way people relate with one another, both in the workplace and in wider society. The advent of computer networks and low cost computers have enabled companies to decentralize their operations. This has fundamentally changed how many workers interact with their supervisors and coworkers. According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, over five million people are now employed in computer occupations. Labor Force Statistics from the Current Population Survey, Last Modified Date: January 22, 2021. Given the ever increasing role computers play in our society, it should come as no surprise that one of the fastest growing industries in this day and age is the computer industry. Computer technology, as important and efficient as it is, is complex and esoteric for most people. Thus, with the boom of the computer industry, the number of professional computer consultants and technicians working throughout the industry has exploded.Computer Professionals Who Fall Under the Computer Professional Exemption Are Exempt From California Minimum Wage and Overtime Laws
Perhaps in response to the growing number of highly-skilled and highly-paid computer professionals populating the workplace, under California law, computer professionals whose employment meets specific conditions are exempt under the Professional Exemption from certain California wage and hour protections, including the payment of not less than minimum wage for all hours worked and the requirement that workers be compensated at a rate of no less than one and one-half times the regular rate of pay for work in excess of eight hours in a workday or 40 hours in a workweek. California Labor Code section 515.5.
However, not all computer professionals fall within the exemption. In order to be exempt, the computer professional the employer is seeking to exempt from California wage and hour laws must either be earning at least $47.48 per hour, receive a monthly salary of not less than $8,242.32, or receive an annual salary of not less than $98,907.70 for full-time employment as of January 1, 2021. In addition, the computer professional must perform intellectual, creative, or inventive work with computers and exercise judgment in his or her work. This last provision can be critical in determining whether the worker is exempt under the computer professional exemption. For instance, while the exemption might apply to a proprietary software designer based on his job duties, it generally will not apply to a computer repairman no matter how much he earns because the duties of a computer repairman do not satisfy the duties requirement for the exemption.
On top of that, the computer professional must be involved with either the application of systems analysis techniques and procedures or system functional specifications. This would include consulting with users to determine hardware, software, or system functional specifications; the design, development, documentation, analysis, creation, testing, or modification of computer systems or programs, based on and related to user or system design specifications; or the documentation, testing, creation, or modification of computer programs related to software or hardware design for computer operating systems.Not All Workers Who Work Primarily on Computers Are Computer Professionals for Purposes of the Computer Professionals Exemption
Even if all of the above conditions are met for the exemption in the case of a particular employee, there are still a few exceptions to know.
- The exemption does not apply if the computer professional is a trainee. California Labor Code section 515.5(b)(1). Once the trainee has finished her preparation and has joined the workforce as an independent professional, she may then fall within the exemption.
- Individuals who only manufacture, assemble, or repair computers or computer parts are not to be confused with computer professionals for the purposes of this exemption. These individuals are not exempt because they do not work with software or systems, but, rather, they work with hardware. California Labor Code section 515.5(b)(3).
Someone who mainly uses computers while working and is quite skilled in their use (such as an engineer) but whose specialty is not computer-related, also does not qualify for the exemption, as while the individual may be highly proficient with computers her duties are not that of a computer professional for exemption purposes. California Labor Code section 515.5(b)(4). An employee who produces documentation for computers such as labels or set up instructions is not a computer professional for exemption purposes. California Labor Code section 515.5(b)(5). The exemption also does not apply to workers whose job duties might otherwise fall under the exemption if their efforts are for “the purpose of creating imagery for effects used in the motion picture, television, or theatrical industry.” California Labor Code section 515.5(b)(6).Job Titles Do Not Matter for Purposes of Determining Whether a Worker Is Exempt
The classification of a worker is not determined by his or her job title but instead is determined by both salary and duties. Even if the worker is not exempt under the computer professional exemption, depending on the duties of the worker, the worker may be exempt if they primarily engage in job duties that fall under the executive or administrative exemption.FLSA
While the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) does creates basic wage and hour protections for most workers in the United States, the FLSA is a floor, rather than a ceiling, for wage and hour protections. When state law differs from the FLSA, an employer must comply with the standard most protective to employees. California has created higher standards of protection for workers. The FLSA has an exemption for employees in computer-related Occupations. See Code of Federal Regulations, title 29, part 541.400. However, the compensation threshold under the FLSA is much lower than the threshold under California law. Thus, California computer professionals are only exempt from overtime and minimum wage laws if they earn at least $47.48 per hour as of January 1, 2021 or receive a commensurate monthly or annual salary as discussed earlier in this article. As a consequence, many moderately-paid computer professionals who would be exempt under the FLSA were they working outside of California, are entitled to overtime and minimum wage protections under California law because they do not earn enough to qualify for the California exemption.Contact Us
If you have not been paid proper overtime wages, or if you have been denied rest breaks or meal breaks or have been forced to work during them, or if you believe your employer or former employer has otherwise violated your rights, call the experienced employment law attorneys at Kokozian Law Firm , APC or Contact Us via our online form.