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I'm a software engineer working in California. I've been working at my current company for about 5 years and am generally quite happy. Recently, management has been interested in making me an exempt employee. However, I make significantly less than the minimum salary threshold which is about $90K in the state of CA according to CA.gov (https://www.dir.ca.gov/...) and Society for Human Resource Management (https://www.shrm.org/...), which states:

California Labor Code Section 515.5 provides that certain computer software employees are exempt from overtime pay if particular criteria are met. One of the required criteria is that the employee's rate of pay not be less than a certain threshold dollar amount. Effective Jan. 1, 2018, an employer can choose to pay an exempt computer software employee an hourly rate of at least $43.58 per hour or a salary of at least $7,565.85 per month ($90,790.07 annually).

and so they've been considering changing my job title so as to avoid this requirement.

I think I'm quite fairly compensated and wouldn't feel like I'm being taken advantage of if I don't get a huge raise. However, it seems a bit dodgy since my duties wouldn't change at all. I'd be a software engineer in all but title. Can they actually do this?

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  • There is no salary requirement based on job title. – paparazzo Aug 29 '18 at 3:04
  • @paparazzo true, but there do appear to be salary requirements based on duties at least in CA – alicebob Aug 29 '18 at 3:40
  • This might be easier for folks to read than the PDF: dir.ca.gov/dlse/… – BSMP Aug 29 '18 at 4:06
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    @alicebob Changing titles to try to skirt labor laws is an old loophole that would have long since been closed in most jurisdictions. My father-in-law was hired as an "Assistant Manager" at a department store in the 1960s. His job was counting stock and filling shelves. Partway through his employment there the store was forced to remove the exempt status for everyone with non-managerial duties. – Myles Aug 29 '18 at 16:02
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    Why do they suddenly want to make you exempt? Do you work a lot of overtime right now? If you are not working a lot of overtime, and they begin to require more and more, because you are now exempt, your current compensation per hour will go way down. So even though you feel fairly compensated right now, with having to do that much overtime you'll probably feel a lot different. – JJohnston Aug 29 '18 at 16:50
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and so they've been considering changing my job title so as to avoid this requirement.

California Labor Code Section 515.5 doesn’t say anything of job title, only job function “computer science employee”, if your job duty meets the qualifications of the law then that description would apply to you. In order for you become, an exempted employee, you would have to be paid more or at the required pay level per the CA law since you are working in California.

Your employer can’t “get out of the requirements”, because the only way you are an exempted employee, is if your being paid at the level defined by the law.

Labor Code Section 515.5 provides that certain computer software employees shall be exempt from the requirement that an overtime rate of compensation be paid pursuant to Labor Code Section 510, if certain criteria are met. One of the required criteria is that the employee’s hourly rate of pay not be less than a certain threshold dollar amount. The Division of Labor Statistics and Research is responsible for adjusting this pay rate on October 1 of each year to be effective on January 1 of the following year by an amount equal to the percentage increase in the California Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers. Below is the history of this required hourly pay rate.

Source: https://www.dir.ca.gov/dlse/LC515-5.pdf

  • Even the federal law doesn’t care about job titles, only job duties, your employer simply cannot make you exempted unless your duties change significantly. If they do claim your exempted, without increasing your pay, I would contact CA labor board and/or a labor attorney. – Ramhound Aug 29 '18 at 9:08
  • I have slightly adjusted my answer since I don't know which job duties, are actually covered by the California law. However, since the question was specifically about the pay with regards to the law, I am not going to attempt to parse through dozens of different California labor code sections. I feel I have addressed the main topic of the question. – Ramhound Aug 29 '18 at 12:39

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