Can pay, based on hours worked with no guaranteed minimum, be deemed a "salary," making employee exempt from overtime?
California Labor Code section 515, subdivision (a), sets forth the requirements for determining whether an employee may be classified as exempt from pay requirements including those with respect to overtime: (1) the primary job duties are executive, administrative or professional), (2) the work involves the regular exercise of discretion and independent duties, and (3) the "salary" must exceed twice the minimum wage for full-time employment. More particulars are found in Industrial Welfare Commission (IWC) Wage Order 4.
The issue in the recent case of Negri v. Koning & Associates (published opinion filed 5/16/13) H037804 was whether a payment schedule for plaintiff insurance-claims-adjuster, that allowed him to determine his scheduling/number of hours and compensated him at the fixed rate of $29 per hour regardless of the number of weekly hours (whether below, equal to, or in excess of 40) but did not guarantee a minimum amount of pay per pay-period, qualified as a "salary" within the meaning of requirement (3) above.
The trial court (Santa Clara Superior Court), while factually finding that plaintiff had worked "20 hours of overtime a week," had concluded he was an exempt employee, thus not entitled to overtime pay for those hours exceeding 40 per week. The Court of Appeal, Sixth Appellate District reversed.
The appellate court looked to the "federal salary-basis test" found in the Fair Labor Standards Act as the IWC has construed this test to apply and state requirements need to be at least as protective to the employee as federal standards. Federal law requires that the employee would have to have been paid a predetermined amount that is not subject to reduction based upon the number of hours worked in order to meet the salary basis test. So even though insurance adjuster duties qualify for the administrative exemption, the employee must have received compensation on a "salary" basis as specified.