Category Archives: Exemptions

Commissioned Sales Exemption: Employers May Attribute Commissions Only to Pay Period When Commissions Are Paid for Purposes of Exemption

The California Supreme Court today issued its opinion in Peabody v. Time Warner Cable, Inc., Case No. S204804, __ Cal. 4th __ (July 14, 2014).  At issue was whether an employer may attribute commission wages paid in one pay period to other pay periods in order to satisfy California’s compensation requirements.  The court concluded that an employer may not do so:

[A]n employer satisfies the minimum earnings prong of the commissioned employee exemption only in those pay periods in which it actually pays the required minimum earnings. An employer may not satisfy the prong by reassigning wages from a different pay period.

Id. at *9.  The explained its reasoning as follows:

Whether the minimum earnings prong is satisfied depends on the amount of wages actually paid in a pay period. An employer may not attribute wages paid in one pay period to a prior pay period to cure a shortfall. This interpretation narrowly construes the exemption’s language against the employer with an eye toward protecting employees. (Ramirez v. Yosemite Water Co., supra, 20 Cal.4th at pp. 794-795.) It is also consistent with the purpose of the minimum earnings requirement. Making employers actually pay the required minimum amount of wages in each pay period mitigates the burden imposed by exempting employees from receiving overtime. This purpose would be defeated if an employer could simply pay the minimum wage for all work performed, including excess labor, and then reassign commission wages paid weeks or months later in order to satisfy the exemption‟s minimum earnings prong.

Id. at *7.

By CHARLES H. JUNG

 

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Sixth District Holds That Hours-Based Compensation That in Practice Delivered an Unvarying Minimum Amount of Pay Still Not a Salary

A de Beers 3d staff salary token given to empl...

A de Beers 3d staff salary token given to employees and only usable at their stores (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Sixth District held on Thursday that an hours-based compensation system which was based on the number of hours worked, with no guaranteed minimum cannot be considered a salary, and therefore cannot serve as the basis for an exempt classification.  Negri v. Koning & Associates, No. H037804, __ Cal. App. 4th __ (6th Dist. May 16, 2013).  Plaintiff is an insurance claims adjuster who was paid $29 per hour with no minimum guarantee.  Slip Op. at 1.  When he worked more than 40 hours in a week, he was still paid at $29 per hour.  He brought a claim for overtime pay, and the trial court issued a defense verdict, concluding that plaintiff was an exempt employee.  Id. at 3.

The Court of Appeal reversed:

We recognize that, in practice, defendant always paid plaintiff the equivalent $29 per hour for 40 hours per week so that he, in effect, received an unvarying minimum amount of pay. We also recognize that, as a general matter, an exempt employee may be paid extra for extra work without losing the exemption. (See Kennedy, supra, 410 F.3d at p. 371.) The problem here is that defendant stipulated to the fact that it “never paid [plaintiff] a guaranteed salary”; if he worked fewer claims “he made less money than if he worked more claims.” That is the same thing as saying that plaintiff was not paid “a predetermined amount” that “was not subject to reduction based upon the quantity of work performed.” He was not paid a salary. For that reason, defendant did not prove that the administrative exemption of Wage Order 4 applies in this case.

Slip Op. at 8-9.

By CHARLES H. JUNG

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Unlicensed Law School Graduate Still May Be Exempt Under Learned Professions Exemption

Harvey A. Nell, Clerk and Recorder, Anaconda, MT

Image by Butte-Silver Bow Public Library via Flickr

The First District Court of Appeal held that summary judgment was properly granted in a wage and hour case because plaintiff unlicensed law school graduate performed duties that brought him within the exemption for learned professionals.  Zelasko-Barrett v. Brayton-Purcell, LLP, — Cal.Rptr.3d —-, 2011 WL 3594015, No. A130540 (1st Dist. Aug. 17, 2011) .

Background

Plaintiff was employed by the Brayton-Purcell, LLP (Brayton) law firm as a Law Clerk II after he graduated from law school but before he passed the bar examination. Id. *1. After being admitted to the bar, plaintiff was designated as an associate attorney, and performed tasks customarily performed by junior attorneys. Id. He drafted pleadings, discover demands and responses, did legal research and drafted memoranda of points and authorities, interviewed witnesses, etc. Id. The trial court granted Brayton’s motion for summary judgment and sustained objections to numerous statements where plaintiff denied he was employed in a professional capacity and performed work covered by the professional exemption. Id.

Plaintiff filed an action after voluntarily departing from the law firm, and alleged that he had been misclassified.  Brayton successfully moved for summary judgment on the ground that in the Law Clerk II position plaintiff had been an “exempt professional employee.” Id. Plaintiff appealed. Id. Continue reading

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Ninth Circuit Holds That Newspaper Reporters Not Exempt

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On Monday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed in “all respects” the trial court’s grant of partial summary judgment to plaintiffs, a judgment after jury and bench trials, and an award of attorney’s fees to plaintiffs.  Wang v. Chinese Daily News, Inc., Nos. 08-55483, 08-56740, — F.3d —-, 2010 WL 3733568 (9th Cir. Sept. 27, 2010).  Among other things, the Ninth Circuit held that plaintiff newspaper reporters were non-exempt.  (Thank you to Randy Renick for bringing this case to my attention.)

Background

Employees of Chinese Daily News, Inc. (“CDN”), a Chinese-language newspaper, filed suit against CDN on behalf of current, former, and future CDN employees based in CDN’s San Francisco and Monterey Park (Los Angeles), California locations.  Id. *1.  Plaintiffs claimed violations of the FLSA, California’s Labor Code, and California’s Unfair Competition Law, Cal. Bus. & Prof. Code § 17200, alleging that employees were made to work in excess of eight hours per day and forty hours per week. Id. Continue reading

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After Bench Trial on UCL Claim, Northern District Finds “On-Job Supervisor” Properly Classified as Exempt Under Administrative Exemption

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District Judge Susan Illston of the Northern District of California conducted a bench trial of plaintiff’s overtime claim under the Unfair Competition Law (“UCL”) and found that defendant UPS met its burden of proving that plaintiff was properly classified as falling within the administrative exemption in his role as “On-Job Supervisor”.  Lopez v. United Parcel Service, Inc., C 08-05396 SI, 2010 WL 3630619 (N.D. Cal. Sept. 14, 2010).

Background

Plaintiff Ben Lopez sued defendant United Parcel Service, Inc. (“UPS”) contending that UPS improperly classified him as an employee exempt from overtime compensation under California law. Id. *1. Continue reading

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Obama Administration Weighs in on Pharmaceutical Representatives Case, Arguing that Reps Are Not Exempt

The Obama Cabinet.
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Following its stated policy of aggressively prosecuting wage and hour violations, the  Obama administration‘s Department of Labor has filed an amicus brief in the Ninth Circuit case of Buchanan v. SmithKline Beecham Corp., 10-1525, arguing that pharmaceutical representatives are not exempt under the outside sales exemption or the administrative exemption of the FLSA.  You can read more here.

The Second Circuit considered the same issue and found that reps were not exempt under either the outside sales exemption nor the administrative exemption.

By CHARLES H. JUNG

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