California Labor &
Employment Law Blog
Feb 17, 2015

Federal Overtime Exemption Changes Likely to Occur in Upcoming Weeks

Topics: New Laws & Legislation, Wage & Hour Issues

The Department of Labor last updated its regulations related to the primary FLSA exemptions (administrative, executive, and professional employees) in 2004.  President Obama called for changes to the regulations and a narrowing of the exemptions in 2014.  Recent activities by the Department of Labor and Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs indicate that the Department of Labor will soon take action. 

Currently, the salary test for these employees requires a minimum annual salary of $23,660 in order to have any chance of qualifying for one of these exemptions.  Pro-union and other pro-employee groups are pushing to move the salary test minimum to $42,000 or higher.  This would raise the minimum for California employers, as the current California minimum is $37,440 annually (rising to $41,600 in 2016). 

In addition, most, including this author, expect the Department of Labor to modify the duties test such that employers will have to prove that employees who are exempt from overtime are spending more than 50% of their time performing exempt duties in order to be considered exempt.  Currently, under federal law, the employer need only prove that exempt duties constitute the primary (key) duties of the employer’s position.  If such a change is implemented, federal law would be more consistent with California law with respect to the duties test.  

Finally, many pro-employee and union groups have criticized the definition of the administrative exemption as being too broad and too vague.  Thus, it would not be a surprise if the Department of Labor narrows the definition of administrative employee thereby making it more difficult for employers to utilize this exemption and restricting its applicability to employees who perform high level back office administrative functions that are entirely separate from the employer’s main business focus.   If such a proposal were enacted, the employer would have to prove that the administrative employee is not a production employee who is directly involved in performing the service or making the product that the employer provides to its customers.  This would have a material impact and substantially minimize the applicability of the administrative exemption.

We are not the only ones anticipating these changes.  Over the weekend, CNN posted an article on its home page suggesting that changes like these are on the way.  Click here.  Once these changes are announced, we will provide our readers with a summary and our thoughts.

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For over 25 years, CDF has distinguished itself as one of the top employment, labor and immigration firms in California, representing employers in single-plaintiff and class action lawsuits and advising employers on related legal compliance and risk avoidance. We cover the state, with five locations from Sacramento to San Diego.

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About the Editor

Robin Largent has a regular presence in California state and federal courts and has been lead defense counsel and appellate counsel for large and small California employers in litigation (and arbitration) ranging from individual discrimination and harassment claims to complex wage and hour representative and class actions. She also leads the firm’s appellate practice, having substantial experience and success handling appeals, writ petitions, and amicus briefs in both state and federal court on issues such as class certification (particularly in the wage and hour arena), manageability and due process concerns associated with class action trials, exempt/non-exempt misclassification issues, meal and rest break compliance, trade secret/unfair competition matters, and the scope of federal court jurisdiction under the Class Action Fairness Act.
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