When Doesn’t California Minimum Wage Apply?
In some cases, the minimum wage in California does not apply or employees may be paid less than the statutory rate.
- EXECUTIVES, ADMINISTRATIVE STAFF, AND PROFESSIONALS
Executive, administrative, and professional workers are not covered by California’s minimum wage laws. However, the exemption of these sorts of occupations from minimum wage legislation is quite meaningless.
An employee must be paid a salary that would put their equivalent hourly “wages” well above the minimum wage in order to fulfill the legal definition of executive, administrative, or professional.
If accountants, for example, are paid significantly more than the state minimum wage of $7.35 per hour, and they work 40 hours per week, their monthly salary must be at least twice that amount.
If the minimum wage is $11 per hour, the monthly salary necessary to qualify as an executive, administrative, or professional employee would be $3,813 (two times $11 per hour divided by twelve months).
Employees in occupations that do not have comparable or related experience may be paid at a rate of 85 percent of the minimum wage, rounded to the nearest nickel. For the first 160 hours of employment, this only applies. After 160 hours of employment, their salaries must be raised to 100% of the minimum wage.
The Division of Labor Standards and Enforcement in the State of California may give licenses to employees whose “earning capacity is impaired by physical disability or mental deficiency at less than the minimum wage.” This license must be applied for jointly by the employer and the employee, or the employee’s representative. The Labor Commission regulates the minimum wage that must be paid in these
Minimum wage does not apply to independent contractors. Because independent contractors are not considered employees by definition, they are not required to be paid minimum wage.
A court will look to the amount of direction and control that the contracting entity has over the worker’s work, even if the employer and employee enter into an agreement that expressly states that the employee is a contractor.
How To Enforce The Minimum Wage in California
Employees have two choices when an employer refuses to pay them the legal minimum wage:
- They can file a wage claim with a federal or state administrative agency, or
- They can file a civil lawsuit.
An employee (or their lawyer) must weigh a variety of factors in deciding which option to pursue. The value of the claim, whether the employer will likely dispute it, and whether state or federal law should be applied are all important considerations.
If the employer did not pay the required minimum wage under California, but did follow federal law, , an employee may be restricted to making a claim under California law rather than federal. If both state and federal laws were broken, the employee must determine which law offers a stronger remedy.