ARE ACCOUNTANTS UNLICENSED AS CPAs ENTITLED TO OVERTIME PAY?
Wage Claims, Overtime & Other Employee Compensation
I have worked as a staff accountant for a company in downtown Los Angeles for the last 5 years. I am not a Certified Public Accountant. I have prepared billing statements and invoices for the company’s clients, including additional clerical, bookkeeping, data entry and general law office tasks. I have consistently worked between 9-10 hours a day and occasionally work on a weekend. I have received a monthly salary but had not been receiving any compensation for overtime. Am I entitled to overtime payment from my employer?
A: It appears you are entitled to overtime payments for those days you worked in excess of 8 hours per day or times that you worked in excess of 40 hours per week. There are two types of employees – the exempt and the non exempt employees. The distinction is important because the former is “exempt” from the payment of overtime while the latter is entitled to these payments. In order to be truly exempt from overtime payments, the employees must be correctly classified under the Professional, Administrative or Executive exemptions. Employees exempt under the professional exemption must be: (1)
licensed or certified by the State and engaged in the practice of law, medicine, dentistry, pharmacy, optometry, architecture, engineering, teaching, or accounting (or engaged in a learned or artistic professions); (2) engaged in work which is primarily intellectual, artistic, creative or requiring advanced knowledge; (3) assigned a job that requires the exercise of discretion and independent judgment. (4) paid at least twice the state’s minimum wage for full time employment. To fall under the administrative exemption, an employee must be:
(1) paid at least twice the state’s minimum wage for full time employment; (2) charged with the performance of office or non-manual work directly related to management policies or general business operations; (3) regularly exercising discretionary and independent judgment; (4) regularly assisting a proprietor or an executive or administrative employee; and (5) working only under general supervision special assignments and tasks. For executive exemption to apply, an employee must be: (1) paid at least twice the state’s minimum wage for full time employment; (2) assigned as primary function the management of the business; (3) responsible for regularly directing the work of 2 or more
subordinates; (4) has the authority to hire, fire, give pay treatment or recommend such actions; (5) regularly and customarily exercises discretionary powers; and (6) devoting less than 50% of work time to non-managerial duties. Classifying employees as exempt simply by conferring titles such as manager, supervisor, senior accountant, specialist or vice-president does not automatically mean that the particular employee is not entitled to overtime payments. In the case that our law firm prosecuted on behalf of staff accountants who were not paid overtime, the defendant company engaged in a similar practice. The civil action eventually resulted in the recovery of back wages for all misclassified employees for the last 4 years. The lawsuit also changed the way the company did business by ceasing its practice of misclassifying its “accountant” employees. However, other employers have continued to incorrectly classify employees in order to avoid paying overtime compensation. If an employee believes that he or she does not fall under the exemption based on actual responsibilities in the work place, it is smart for that employee to consult with an experienced employment attorney.© Law Offices C. Joe Sayas, Jr.