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California Overtime Pay Laws For Computer Professionals, Programmers and Software Engineers

Prepared By: Melissa C. Marsh, Los Angeles Employment Attorney
Written: October 2008

January 2016 Update: Beginning January 1, 2016, to be exempt from California's overtime pay requirements under the computer professional overtime pay exemption codified in Labor Code 515.5, the computer professional must not only meet the duties requirements as set forth below, but the computer professional must now earn at least $87,185.14 a year ($85,981.40 in 2015 and $84,130.56 in 2014), $7,265.43 monthly ($7,165.12 in 2015 and $7,010.88 in 2014), or $41.85 per hour ($41.27 in 2015 and $40.38 in 2014) if paid hourly.

Although many computer professionals and programmers are treated as salaried employees exempt from overtime, the fact is that not all computer professionals are exempt from overtime. Pursuant to California law, only certain highly compensated computer systems analysts, programmers and software engineers who satisfy both the minimum salary test ($85,981.40 per year or $41.85 per hour for 2016) and the following criteria are exempt from overtime:

1. Job Duties. The computer professional must spend more than 50% of his or her time in work that is "intellectual or creative" and requires the exercise of discretion and independent judgment, and the computer professional's primary duties must consist of one or more of the following:

  • systems analysis, including consulting with users, to determine hardware, software or system functional specifications; OR
  • design, development, documentation, analysis, creation, or modification of computer systems or programs, including prototypes, based on and related to, user or system design specifications; OR
  • documenting, testing, creating, or modifying the design of a computer software or hardware.

2. Skill Level/Compensation. The computer professional must be highly skilled and proficient in the theoretical and practical application of highly specialized information to computer systems analysis, programming, or software engineering. Additionally, the employee must earn at least $$41.85 per hour (2016) or a salary of $$85,981.40 (2016) a year. This compensation level will be adjusted each year based on the increase in the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers.

3. Specific Exceptions. Employees in the following computer related jobs are NOT exempt from overtime pay under this Computer Professional Exemption:

  • Trainees or entry-level employees;
  • Employees in computer-related occupations lacking the expertise to work independently;
  • Employees engaged in the operation of computers or in the manufacture, repair, or maintenance of computer hardware and related equipment;
  • Engineers, drafters, machinists, or other professional employees whose work is highly dependent upon or facilitated by the use of computers and computer software programs and who are skilled in computer-aided design software, including CAD/CAM;
  • Writers engaged in writing content material either for print or for onscreen media; and
  • Computer professionals engaged in creating imagery for effects used in motion picture, television, or theatrical industries.


In sum, the computer programmer overtime pay exemption codified in California Labor Code 515.5 may provide some overtime relief for employers of highly skilled and highly compensated computer professionals, but it is not a broad based exemption for high tech employees. California employers should also be aware that computer professionals who are properly classified as exempt from overtime (through job duties and hourly wage) are still entitled to the required meal and rest breaks.

Our employment law practice consists of: (1) assisting employees with their wage claims and (2) counseling employers who seek to comply with new state and federal employment laws, providing human resource training, and providing essential contracts and employee policies to prevent employee lawsuits. To schedule a consultation, please call 818-849-5206 or Send Us An Email.

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California employment lawyer, Melissa C. Marsh, is based in Sherman Oaks and West Hollywood, and serves individuals and businesses throughout Los Angeles County, including: West Hollywood, Miracle Mile, Beverly Hills, Century City, Santa Monica, Burbank, North Hollywood, Valley Village, Toluca Lake, Studio City, Sherman Oaks, Van Nuys, Encino, and Woodland Hills.

© 2008 Melissa C. Marsh. All Rights Reserved.

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Located in Los Angeles, California, the Law Office of Melissa C. Marsh handles business law and corporation law matters as a lawyer for clients throughout Los Angeles including Burbank, Sherman Oaks, Studio City, Valley Village, North Hollywood, Woodland Hills, Hollywood, West LA as well as Riverside County, San Fernando, Ventura County, and Santa Clarita. Attorney Melissa C. Marsh has considerable experience handling business matters both nationally and internationally. We routinely assist our clients with incorporation, forming a California corporation, forming a California llc, partnership, annual minutes, shareholder meetings, director meetings, getting a taxpayer ID number (EIN), buying a business, selling a business, commercial lease review, employee disputes, independent contractors, construction, and personal matters such as preparing a will, living trust, power of attorney, health care directive, and more.