In a state with a high cost of living like California, every dollar counts, and denial of overtime can strip workers of wages that they are entitled to under the law. A December 2017 ruling by the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has held that workers that make over $100,000 each year may be entitled to overtime under the Fair Labor Standards Act despite the fact that they earn six-figure salaries. The case was prompted by a class-action lawsuit filed by two welding inspectors who were denied overtime pay.
The Fair Labor Standards Act governs the mandatory payment of overtime for employees who work more than 40 hours in a week. The FLSA's overtime provisions are mandatory for all non-exempt employees; other workers can be classified as "exempt" from these provisions, which means they can work over 40 hours each week without receiving overtime. In order to be considered exempt, employees must make at least $455 each week and be paid on a salaried basis rather than dependent on their weekly work hours. However, pay and salary style are not the sole determinants of exempt status under the FLSA.
To be considered exempt, workers must perform duties that are executive, administrative or professional. These duties typically have a significant amount of independence associated with them. One burgeoning issue is the classification of relatively low-level office workers as exempt for performing administrative duties. In this case, even their relatively high pay is not sufficient to override a proper analysis based on the welding inspectors' job duties.
For people who are being denied overtime because they are classified as exempt from the Fair Labor Standards Act, misclassification can be a real concern. This can be especially true for people earning barely above the FLSA minimum, but it can also be the case for relatively highly-paid workers whose jobs are not correctly classified as executive, professional or administrative. An employment lawyer may be able to help misclassified workers to pursue compensation for unfairly denied overtime.