As per the California labor laws, employers should pay their employees minimum wages, overtime, provide rest breaks, and pay payroll taxes. However, you may not receive these benefits in case your employer misclassifies you as an independent contractor. When a non-exempt employee is misclassified, they are no longer under the protection of the law. Note that if your employer misclassifies you as an exempt, the company may owe you money. It means you have legal grounds to file a lawsuit against the employer.
Read on for more insights.
Difference Between Exempt and Non-Exempt Employees
In most cases, exempt employees have administrative and executive positions. Others may include some computer professionals, independent contractors, or outside professionals. Still, note that having job titles such as executives or regular pay does not always mean that the job qualifies as exempt. In California, an employee has to pass the following tests:
- Customarily and regularly exercise independent judgment and discretion on the job
- Be primarily engaged in executive, professional and administrative duties
- Earn a salary that is at least twice or equivalent to the minimum state wage for 40 hours a week.
All other employees who don’t meet the requirement for exempt employees are non-exempt employees. Workers under this classification must have a minimum wage, overtime pay, rest periods, and meal breaks.
Signs That Could Show You’ve Been Misclassified
Sometimes, the requirements for an exempt status can be unclear to some workers. Here are some red flags to watch out for:
- If you were classified as exempt for having a College degree: Note that having a degree doesn’t mean that you satisfy the duty test for the professional exemption.
- When your salary is less than $455 per week: As an exempt employee, you shouldn’t receive less than $455 per week even if you work part-time. Any employee paid under this amount should be classified as a non-exempt as per FLSA.
- When your primary duty involves manual labor: Exemptions do not apply to workers who perform repetitive operations with physical skills, hands, and energy.
- You get hourly rate pay: As an exempt, you should not receive payments at an hourly rate. You may be receiving payments regularly, but it should not be directly related to the number of hours worked. Still, if the employer deducts wages due to missed work hours, the employee may be misclassified.
Why Do Employees Misclassify Workers as Exempt?
The reason for misclassifying employees is mostly financially motivated since employers don’t have to pay for overtime, and they deny them rest and meal breaks.
Can I Sue My Employer For Misclassification?
In case your employer misclassified you, it’s a violation of California’s federal labor laws, and you can seek your unpaid wages. It can also lead to class action lawsuits if it affects several employees.
The lawsuit can involve the following damages:
- Legal fees
- Missed rest breaks
- Court costs
- Unpaid overtime
- Missed meal breaks
- Minimum wage violation
However, some employees don’t understand how misclassification affects their employment rights since they may find the law a bit complex. In this case, it’s advisable to hire a lawyer who will help pursue justice on your behalf.
Can an Employer Fire An Employee for Reporting Misclassification
California employment is “at will” and your employer can fire you for any reason not unless there is a specific contractual agreement restricting termination. However, it is illegal to be “retaliated,” and you can sue for “wrongful termination” under the whistleblower protections.
Our California Attorneys Can Help You
Aiman-Smith & Marcy has qualified employment law, consumer fraud, and class action attorneys. We are committed to eliminating unethical business practices that large companies inflict on employees, businesses, and consumers. Contact us today and speak to our experienced lawyers who are well versed with employee misclassification cases to maximize your chances of success.