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If these exemptions apply, then an employer can legally pay an employee a rate set below the California minimum wage. However, the presumption holds that unless an exemption applies, the employee is to be paid at the state minimum wage. Therefore, the employer has the burden of proving that an exemption applies.Minimum Wage
The minimum wage rate established in California, which as of January 1, 2021 is $14 an hour for employers with 26 or more employees and $13 an hour for employers with less than 26 employees, generally applies to every worker in the state. However, there are a couple of exemptions specifically regarding minimum wage. These exemptions provide that a person belonging to one of the listed categories may be paid less than the state minimum wage. The easiest example of an exemption is the law providing that an employer's parent, spouse, or child may be paid less than the California minimum wage.
It is important to remember, however, that in order for the exemption to actually apply, from a legal standpoint, the employee being paid less than the state minimum wage must genuinely belong to a category that qualifies for exemption. The employer, for instance, cannot merely give the employee a title, such as "outside salesperson," that fits in one of the categories and elude the minimum wage mandate. Neither can the employer assign the employee with a small range of duties pertaining to an occupation covered by the categories even though the principal bulk of the employee's work is still outside the scope of the minimum wage exemptions.
The next and most common of these exemptions is the "outside salesperson." An outside salesperson is someone who spends half or more of their workweek away from the employer's primary business location, usually advertising and negotiating for transactions of a particular product or service with clients and potential customers. An example of this would be the proverbial door-to-door salesperson, selling household products such as vacuum cleaners or refrigerators to people at their front doorstep. An employer is not required to pay California's minimum wage to an outside salesperson, but again the employer must establish that the employee is in fact an outside salesperson for this rule to apply.
Additionally, individuals in a national service program, for instance AmeriCorps, also do not have to be paid California's minimum wage rate while working in the state.
Another exemption applies to "apprentices." These apprentices, however, must be regularly indentured according to the State Division of Apprenticeship Standards.
Apprentices are not to be confused with "learners." Learners are employees still working at or before they have completed their first 160 hours of employment if they have had no previous experience in the occupation. A learner may also be paid less than minimum wage. While there are no further rules regarding apprentices, employers must still pay learners 85% of the California minimum wage.
The above covers most of the minimum wage exemptions of note. However, employers must realize that they are expected to pay even minors the state minimum wage, unless the minor is a learner. In fact, minors are to be paid the same rate as adults performing identical work at the business, seniority bonuses aside.Contact Us
If you and other employees have not been granted minimum wages, or if you have been denied rest periods or meal breaks or have been compelled to work during them, contact the leading lawyers in California for overtime compensation and rest or meal breaks at Kokozian Law Firm, APC. 323-857-5900. Ask about our free initial consultation.