Are you a computer professional who should be getting overtime pay, but isn't?

If there is one profession that works long hours, it's the computer professional.

It can be hard to tell since California has changed the overtime rules for computer professionals four times since January 1, 2006. And even smart companies like EA, Google, and Yahoo get it wrong.

I often meet people who work as computer professionals who just assume that they should not be paid overtime. They have tended to have a vague notion about the law in this area and basically rely on their boss to get it right. However, this exemption is ripe for employers to screw it up. In order to be exempt from overtime as a computer professional, you have to meet strict requirements and make a very high wage.

Electronic Arts (EA) found out the hard way by losing a class action lawsuit for nearly $15 million dollars.

The most recent change in the law was on September 1, 2008, where California permitted employers to not pay overtime for any computer professional who earns a salary of $75,000 or more. However, the requirements before September 1, 2008 were much stricter and employees can sue for unpaid wages for up to four years. So, if you were misclassified before September 1, 2008, you still have an actionable case.

As mentioned above, the law has changed four times since January 1, 2006. Each change in the law requires a separate analysis to determine eligibility for overtime. You could be owed overtime for some of that period,but not others.

I know that sounds complicated, but it's really not. Eventually, I'd like to add an entire section about this onto our website, but in the meanwhile, I'd like to share the work of fellow California employer lawyer, Michael Tracy. He litigates wage and hour cases in Southern California and has a very informative website around these issues. Here's his page on computer professionals. Make sure to scroll down and review the chart he made for the salary requirement.

One part of his analysis that I particularly find particularly entertaining is his analysis of job postings by Yahoo and Google, where he determines the positions are not exempt from overtime based on the advertised job description. Just goes to show you that even smart employers like Yahoo and Google get it wrong all the time.

Here's the link to the job description analysis. Enjoy!