Q. On Labor Laws for Salary Workers

Updated on September 03, 2012
J.W. asks from Los Angeles, CA
22 answers

I am a mother of two pre-schoolers, but working full-time for a small private company (LLC not an Inc.) in California. Because of my post-graduate degree and prior job experience, I hold one of the senior level position at this 4 year old start-up company. All the company employees are paid on a fixed salary basis. My boss (the company owerner) has been always promoting employees for "dedication to work", and work until job gets done, ABOVE and BEYOND the 8 to 5 typical 8 hour work per day being practiced at most of other places! He thinks if you are an hourly employee, you get paid for over-time, but for salary employees, there is no labor law stipulating 40 hours standard work hours per week. Therefore, salary employees should work how many more hours that he is assigning to respective employees "to get job done", including late hours and/or weekends, which makes him entitled to call employees during weekends to touch basis. "To get job done" in this case is very vague; because he can come up with some additional various different projects on its own and assign to emploees as a "job". And according to him it is not violation of labor law and at a lot of work places across U.S., people work hard like this. He can mean 60 hour work per week with no over time payment. Where does Labor Law stand in this regard? especially in the state of California. This is making me very stressed because it takes me away from spending time with kids plus having to pay a nanny hourly pay for those extra hours I would have to work. All the insights and legal advises (if any) would be tremendously appreciated.

Many Thanks in Advance!

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answers from Dallas on

Here in Texas, the overtime law does not apply to salaried workers. My husband's company was very thorough in explaining this, when he moved to salary.

Here is a page I found that could help you.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Columbia on

I'm salary. You work until the job gets done. The exchange is the salary - a fixed, generally higher, income.

1 mom found this helpful

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answers from Los Angeles on

Yep. That sounds right. Salaried employees have no hourly limits or overtime.
It's up to you to decide what you are willing to do about it. Meaning if you try to put a stop to it, or limit it, are you willing to pay the consequence, of getting fired or not getting promoted or salary increases.
A friend of mine took a new job. And worked 40-50 hours a week at first. Then the boss started demanding more time. At first, he thought it was temporary. But after a few weeks, he spoke up. He said I'm maybe a "50-hour week kinda guy", if you want more than that, you need to hire someone else. Because I'm not willing to do more than that on a regular basis. Every once in a while, yes, but not every week. They said okay. All has been well since.
Good luck to you.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Pittsburgh on

That's completely legal.
Salaried employees don't get paid for OT, travel, etc.
But, OTOH, they DO get paid when they leave early or miss a day.
The "theory" is that it evens out.

The big difference is that usually in a salaried (as you say, senior) position...it's project driven, not dictated by punching a clock or filling out a time sheet. I tend to think of hourly positions as those worker bees that carry out the plan that the salaried positions devise.

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answers from Dallas on

I hope someone with HR background can come and give more information. I want to say that is somewhat a standard practice!!!

I used to work for a CA company and just like Texas, if you are a salaried employee, you have to put as many hours as it requires to get the job done, that meant I traveled on weekends to be somewhere for a meeting on Monday morning, or I was sent to Alaska for a month, and work everyday without a break without extra compensation. I even worked for a compnay that I was paid hourly, but only for billable hour, and in order to keep a fulltime status and get benefits I had to have 40 billable hours on my timesheet, that meant I had to actually work 50-60 hours a week.

Unfortunately, in small businesses, most of the time the owner doesn't know how to manage their staff and prioritize, he may want a product from you over the weekend, but he maybe just over exaggerating what the urgency is.

I suggest that you talk to your boss about the situation, be very calm and don't get emotional, when he assigns you something, don't assume he needs right away, answer something like: "I am working on XY assignement and will get this to you by (insert date)". Give reallistic deadlines to yourself, instead of him dictating you when you should have it done. If he needs everything right away and makes you jump from assignment to assignment he is not good project manager!!!

You have to get him to trust you and the staff that you will get things done.

I also want to say, if you let him take time away from you, it becomes a given that you will stay until wee hours to get it done. Once in a while, we do have to go above and beyond, but not everyday.

I have struggled with this issue myself at couple of companies that I worked. I still try to improve my tactful communication skills and how to deal work issues. I notice that as women, we hate to say "no" or negotiate deadlines, ask for vacation time to spend with our family, getting raises, etc. , but men are more confident, they have no problem asking for things I mentioned above and don't mind to hear "no", I think that's what we fear the most, we don't want to be turned down.

This is my opinion only about your situation: get familiar with the labor laws, I am sure CA Work Force Commision/Depratment has information on their website, but do not try to threaten your boss with labor laws, etc. Try to work it out with better communication, especially with a very small company, you would ruin your reputation as someone who whines. That step should be your very last resort.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from St. Louis on

I am not familiar with the labor laws in California and it wouldn't surprise me if they are different from the rest of the world.

The thing with full time salaried is that your salary is calculated on expected hours, they go up and down but you agreed to the salary for a position.

An example would be hourly you are paid say 10 an hour, the position usually has four hours of overtime so they give you a weekly salary of 460 dollars. Some weeks you only work 42 hours so you are actually making 30 dollars more than if you were hourly, the next week you work 45, you get the point.

If your salary is not what it should be for the hours you work then you go to your employer, tell them why you think you are underpaid, and ask for a raise. That is why in general there are no labor laws protecting salaried employees from claiming overtime benefits.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

He's right. When you are a salaried employee, you are exempt from overtime law, which means you are paid a base salary regardless of the number of hours you worked. Unfortunately, this works against you in the regard that you are describing.

However, it can work for you as well. If one of your kids gets sick and you need to take three days off, you can be expected to be paid for that, whether you have available sick time or not, because when you are an exempt employee, they MUST pay you your base salary, regardless of hours worked.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Oklahoma City on

Call your state labor board. The number should be in your phone book, maybe in the blue pages under government.

They are the only ones that can answer with a positively right answer. BUT I do often find that a person can be imperfect so I always ask where i can find the statute online "So I can print it off for my bosses". That way you aren't say to the person "I hear what you're saying but I don't believe you". You're giving them a good excuse as to why you'd like to look it up for yourself.

I googled the topic and got these links that are informative:

"""5. Q. Are salaried employees entitled to overtime?

A. It depends. A salaried employee must be paid overtime unless they meet the test for exempt status as defined by federal and state laws, or unless they are specifically exempted from overtime by the provisions of one of the Industrial Welfare Commission Wage Orders regulating wages, hours and working conditions."""


This one is an attorney's office so I imagine it's up to date if they want people to hire them to represent them in the matter....


State labor board contact information:


1 mom found this helpful


answers from Las Vegas on

I've worked in HR, specifically in Compensation Admn for ofer 10 years. The issue isn't really "salaried vs hourly", it's really "exempt vs non-exempt". On the Federal side the the law is the Federal Labor Standards Act or FLSA. Elissa T's answer gives a good description of the types of jobs that are considered exempt from the overtime provisions of the FLSA. There are also State laws that apply to overtime, and I know that CA laws are stricter than Federal laws. Just because an employer pays an employee a salary doesn't always mean that they are correctly following the applicable laws. If a job meets the requirements for exemption then paying overtime is not required. Compare your job duties & responsibilities to the descriptions listed in the FLSA and if you feel the position is classified incorrectly contact the CA labor dept. If it is classified correctly then you either work the hours the boss demands, or find another job (sorry).

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

Your boss is right.

BTW, I don't know anyone in a decent paying job that doesn't work 60 hours a week. As my hubby likes to tell me, they pay me so well because they want 24-7 access to me.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from New York on

Sounds very typical of the workplace these days! I know Silicon Valley people work very long hours on salary so no OT. My husband and I are "on call" in a sense. We both are available via email and/or phone on vacations always. My boss lives that lifestyle so the rest of us do too. It's unfortunate but I believe your boss is correct. I'm not sure i know anyone with a 40 work week who is in a salaried position of some seniority. 40 hours seems like part time to me now... Also, start-ups are notorious for long hours bc you should have an equity stake that hopefully rewards you. It's an equation and a trade-off. Potentially make the same or less at a big company for maybe fewer hours but no big payoff potential someday from stock.



answers from Boston on

I think your boss is right. That's how it works everywhere I have worked. If you don't like, then this sounds like a poor fit for you and that you should look for something else.

If it helps offer some context, I have put in 50 hours this week already, and that's with taking 6 hours off for a 'vacation' day on Tuesday where I 'only' worked 6 hours before and after that time off. Pulled an all nighter Wednesday to Thursday. It's just how it goes sometimes.



answers from Los Angeles on

J. -
I don't have the detailed info on exempt vs. non-exempt status but I did want to encourage you to find out what your best negotiating postition is, and start negotiating. The owner sounds like a tyrannt who not only abuses the loyalty and talen of key employees, but also can't provide enough leadtime for you to plan. Having a discussion about changing your exempt/non-exempt status (or suing) may not lead you to keeping your job and getting back pay. If you want to work for this company, you need to figure out a different way to leverage your position to create change. To do that, you need to know what your best reasonable alternative is:
1) could you could find another job in a similar field, and what is your likely value in the marketplace in terms of similar demanding work hours and better salary, or more reasonable hours and less salary?
2) DO you want to stay with this company? Do you work there because the salary is worth your time and you can't find a better $ amount anywhere else?
3) how replaceable are you? Does your value to the company lend itself to you being able to negotiate a better position?
4) how flexible are you about your work time? is it the hours that is the problem, the predictability, or when the hours must be worked?
5) is your boss willing to be managed? Can you negotiate some boundaries?
I say this because there are a few things to consider: if the pay is good, and you don't think you can drive a better situation elsewhere, and you need your job, you're stuck. Figure out a way to manage your boss's expectations. If ultimately, you want to stay there, knowing that you could be more valued elsewhere, gives you the upper hand in negotiating a compromise. For example, in my job, I often work 60 hour weeks, supporting teams globally, but I've carved out 6:30-8:30 a.m. and 5:30-8:30 p.m. as MY time with my family. I do get back online and work after the kids are in bed. I do end up working about 2 weekends per month, but it's predictable, based on our team's requirements.
Figure out what you want, whether you can find better elsewhere. And at that point, either look for that new job, or negotiate a better situation. Good luck! I hope it works in your favor either way!



answers from Dallas on

I work in labor/employment law...in Texas though. There is a fine line in being a salaried (exempt) employee vs. a nonexempt (hourly) employee. There are varying factors that the Department of Labor uses to determine what is exempt or not exempt, such as responsiblities, managing others, job requirements, etc. If you are working in an exempt, then no. You don't get paid overtime. If you have concerns about how your boss pays you or classifies your position, then you should contact the Department of Labor for help. www.dol.gov



answers from New York on

I'm familiar with this insanely crazy way of running your employees into the ground. If your hours are from 9-5 or 8-4 but on occassion there is the required mandatory overtime, please determine for yourself what that will look like. Try to take charge of your workload and your time. Otherwise you end up frazzled and less productive. If you can prove to him you are more productive and the work gets done and special projects are managed better then perhaps you can convince him to change his ways.

When I was in your shoes I was not available for comment if I wasn't on the worksight. Meaning don't call me on the weekends or off hours. I just would take my slow sweet time in responding and when I did respond I made certain I was on top of my game and things were in order.

NJ is a at will state meaning the employer can hire or fire you with no explanation but it also means to me that I get to rule my time.

I don't mind doing overtime if I'm getting properly compensated for it. I'm more of a night owl, so working overtime until about 11 pm works for me. Working the weekends is fine but I don't work on Sundays that is non negotiable for me. Sunday is my day of worship and rest. I hope this helps but you may want to research the labor laws for your state.


answers from Saginaw on

Usually people who are paid a salary are expected to work more hours, and there is no overtime pay required for salary employees. It's called a salary exemption. As a side note, forty hours per week is not a maximum standard amount that a normal healthy person should have to work, it's just a number that labor unions agreed on for hourly employees, beyond which overtime pay is required. Employers have a strong incentive to keep hourly employees at less than 40 hours/wk because OT is expensive.

I think you have to decide if the salary is worth the trade-off. One thing that might help put things in perspective would be to look at how many hours you work per week and figure out what your hourly wage would be if you were paid hourly. Also take into account any benefits that you have that an hourly employee might not get. And consider the fact that even if you were paid hourly for the hours worked, you probably wouldn't have the opportunity to work those hours because employers don't like to pay OT. So, to make the same amount of money on an hourly wage, you might have to work two jobs.

Finally, it's important to ask yourself if you like your job, and maybe consider the fact that a lot of people in this economy can't find a job.



answers from Albuquerque on

I don't know what the laws are in reference to salaried employees, but yeah, there is no overtime payment. I used to work salaried in the restaurant business, it was grueling. I was probably working around 50 hours a week. And then I would feel really guilty if I had to take any time off so that really didn't happen (some say that is a perk of being salary).
Eventually I just went back to hourly, I had started up school again so it just made more sense. A lot less stressful. The thing is, if the boss can take advantage, he/she will. Add up your hours for the week and see how much you're really making per hour. Maybe check with your labor board to see if there is a "maximum" or something like that. I know, it sucks, been there. Good luck!



answers from Tampa on

Sounds typical for a salaried type job to me. You have to work in a culture that works for your family. I have always been salaried since I started in my career. The last company that I worked for had your boss's attitude on steroids. He was literally working ALL of the time...therefore he expected that everyone else would too. I got calls all the time on nights, weekends, you name it. I worked uncompensated overtime all the time without so much of a thank you. That was the norm for this company...no number of hours was ever good enough. I was able to keep up quite well at first because we didn't have kids. After the kids came, I really did NEED to leave work on time to pick them up, even if I worked more after we got home. I couldn't pick up and be on a plane with no notice. I found that I was stalling there... I moved to a more family-friendly company. I am still on salary and on call all of the time, but it really is the exception that I have to work extra hours. When I do have to do something extra, I don't complain and just do it since it's not all of the time.

It just really sounds like this job doesn't work for your family.



answers from Anchorage on

I would ask a lawyer, but honestly I always thought this was one of the draw backs of being salary. This sounds really really normal for upper level workers in a company, and the longer work weeks (60+) sound really normal too. If you want hourly pay with overtime then you will more then likely have to take a big pay cut and a lower level job.



answers from San Diego on

I don't have any insight to the laws and it sounds like you've been given some good info. I did want to say to think very hard before you do anything because the days of 8-4 or 9-5 career jobs are LONG GONE. I dont know anyone with a decent corporate type job that works that little of hours. The 40 hour work week is a joke at this point if you aren't hourly. It is sad but unfortunately true. If you want a 40 hour week, you'll need an hourly position to get it.



answers from Pittsburgh on

There are VERY specific requirements for him to pay a salary vs hourly wage. They generally stipulate that you must be 'management' with specific responsibilities and a substantial amount of autonomy. I assume the laws could vary state by state but I would guess CA has fairly strict labor laws. Would you classify yourself as management within this company? If not, talk to a labor lawyer because you may very well be entitled to overtime. If you are appropriately categorized as management/salaried then sorry - no overtime.

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