California Computer Professional Exemption Minimum Salary For 2021 Announced
The Computer Professional exemption in California is very complicated and does not always follow the “logic” of the other exempt classifications.
As with the duties test for the other exemptions, the first step is always to separate what is “really important for the company” from what is actually considered “exempt level duties.”
The “special exemption” from overtime requirements applies to certain very highly paid and highly skilled professional computer employees, even though they are paid on an hourly basis (CA Lab. Code Sec. 515.5). An employee qualifies for this exemption only if all the following requirements are met:
- The employee is primarily engaged in work that is intellectual or creative and requires the exercise of discretion and independent judgment, and the employee is primarily engaged in duties that consist of one or more of the following:
- The application of systems analysis techniques and procedures, including consulting with users, to determine hardware, software, or system functional specifications
- The design, development, documentation, analysis, creation, testing, or modification of computer systems or programs, including prototypes, based on and related to user or system design specifications
- The documentation, testing, creation, or modification of computer programs related to the design of software or hardware for computer operating systems
- The employee is highly skilled and is proficient in the theoretical and practical application of highly specialized information relating to computer systems analysis, programming, or software engineering. A job title must not be determinative of the applicability of this exemption.
- The employee’s pay in 2020 is at least $46.55 per hour; or, if paid on a salary basis, he or she is paid at least $96,968.33 per year in monthly payments of at least $8,080.71, exclusive of board, lodging, and other facilities. As of 1/1/2021, these minimums increase to $47.48 per hour; $8,242.32 per month; or, $98,907.70 annually.
This exemption does not apply to the following employees:
- Trainees or employees in entry-level positions who are learning to become proficient in the theoretical and practical application of highly specialized information to computer systems analysis, programming, and software engineering
- Employees in a computer-related occupation but who have not attained the level of skill and expertise necessary to work independently and without close supervision
- Employees engaged in the operation of computers or in the manufacture, repair, or maintenance of computer hardware and related equipment
- Employees who are engineers, drafters, machinists, or other professionals whose work is highly dependent on or facilitated by the use of computers and computer software programs and who are skilled in computer-aided design software, including CAD/CAM, but who are not working as computer systems analysts or programmers
- Writers engaged in writing material, including box labels, product descriptions, documentation, promotional material, setup and installation instructions, and other similar written information, either for print or for on-screen media, or who writes or provides content material intended to be read by customers, subscribers, or visitors to computer-related media
- Employees performing otherwise exempt duties for the purpose of creating imagery for effects used in the motion picture, television, or theatrical industry
A thorough and honest job analysis is critical for properly identifying exemption status. It is always has been (and probably always will be) one of the most difficult challenges faced by HR professionals due to the complexity of the analysis of actual job duties and activities, the employee relations piece, the preferences of upper management (spoiler alert – they mean nothing in this case) and the risk of significant liability. Using employment counsel or a qualified outside consultant can help to reduce some of the stress and mitigate much of the risk.