Private School Exemption Amended To Reduce Minimum Salary Requirement

On September 12, 2016, the Governor signed an amendment to Labor Code 515.8, the Private School Teacher’s Exemption.  Before the amendment, in order for a private school K-12 teacher to qualify as an exempt employee (exempt from overtime, meal and rest periods), the school had to pay the teacher a monthly salary of at least 2X the California state minimum wage (the federal Fair Labor Standards Act minimum salary requirement already does not apply to teachers).  Currently, that California minimum is $3,467 per month (equivalent to $41,600 per year) (but that amount is set to rise steadily until it reaches $5,200 per month, equivalent to $62,400 per year).  But no longer. 

The new amendment repeals the minimum salary IN TOTAL until July 1, 2017 (so, right now, there is no minimum salary to qualify for the exemption at all), and, after July 1, 2017, the minimum salary shall be the greater of the following:

(A) No less than 100 percent of the lowest salary offered by any school district to a person who is in a position that requires the person to have a valid California teaching credential and is not employed in that position pursuant to an emergency permit, intern permit, or waiver; OR

(B) The equivalent of no less than 70 percent of the lowest schedule salary offered by the school district or county in which the private elementary or secondary academic institution is located to a person who is in a position that requires the person to have a valid California teaching credential and is not employed in that position pursuant to an emergency permit, intern permit, or waiver.

Currently, the Caliente Union School District’s lowest salary is $25,246 per year.  Currently, 70% of the lowest salary paid to a credentialed teacher by the Los Angeles Unified School District (as an example) is $35,258 per year ($50,368 X 70% = $35,258).  Thus, if a private school is located in Los Angeles, the minimum salary to maintain the exemption after July 1, 2017 will be $35,258 per year (unless the LAUSD raises its minimum salary).

This amendment is wonderful news for private schools in California.

The text of the newly amended law is as follows:

515.8.

(a) Section 510 does not apply to an individual employed as a teacher at a private elementary or secondary academic institution in which pupils are enrolled in kindergarten or any of grades 1 to 12, inclusive.

(b) For purposes of this section, “employed as a teacher” means that the employee meets all of the following requirements:

     (1) The employee is primarily engaged in the duty of imparting knowledge to pupils by teaching, instructing, or lecturing.

     (2) The employee customarily and regularly exercises discretion and independent judgment in performing the duties of a teacher.

     (3) On and after July 1, 2017, the employee earns the greater of the following:

          (A) No less than 100 percent of the lowest salary offered by any school district to a person who is in a position that requires the person to have a valid California teaching credential and is not employed in that position pursuant to an emergency permit, intern permit, or waiver.

          (B) The equivalent of no less than 70 percent of the lowest schedule salary offered by the school district or county in which the private elementary or secondary academic institution is located to a person who is in a position that requires the person to have a valid California teaching credential and is not employed in that position pursuant to an emergency permit, intern permit, or waiver.

     (4) The employee has attained at least one of the following levels of professional advancement:

          (A) A baccalaureate or higher degree from an accredited institution of higher education.

          (B) Current compliance with the requirements established by the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing, or the equivalent certification authority in another state, for obtaining a preliminary or alternative teaching credential.

(c) This section does not apply to any tutor, teaching assistant, instructional aide, student teacher, day care provider, vocational instructor, or other similar employee.

(d) The exemption established in subdivision (a) is in addition to, and does not limit or supersede, any exemption from overtime established by a Wage Order of the Industrial Welfare Commission for persons employed in a professional capacity, and does not affect any exemption from overtime established by that commission pursuant to subdivision (a) of Section 515 for persons employed in an executive or administrative capacity.

–Adam Trieger