When they are not properly paid. A number of law firms and corporate employers consider paralegals to be exempt from overtime. At the federal level, the Department of Labor (DOL) has stated that most paralegals lack sufficient specialized education to qualify for the learned professional exemption and are therefore not exempt from overtime. In this regard, the State of California generally applies more strict standards and will likely follow the DOL.
Nor is it likely that paralegals could qualify as exempt from overtime under the other most common exemptions. Specifically, paralegals typically do not qualify for the executive exemption (which requires that the job include the management of the business or a recognized department of the business as well as the regular management of two or more employees, among other things) or the administrative exemption (which provides that the primary duty of the job is non-manual work related to business operations or management policies). Further, these exemptions generally require that the employee regularly (meaning more than 50% of the time) exercise discretion and independent judgment. By contrast, paralegals often work under the direct supervision of an attorney and/or under strict guidelines. Accordingly, most paralegals will not qualify as exempt from overtime.