There are two different issues here:
1. Are you actually an exempt employee under California law? See IWC Order 4-2001
. Without knowing your exact job description and what you actually do, regardless of your job description, it's impossible to be definitive here. I encourage you to review the IWC order and see if you really qualify as salary exempt.
2. Assuming that you are salary-exempt, then you must receive at least two times minimum wage for full-time employment. This means $8 per hour X 2 X 40 hours per week X 52 weeks ÷ 12 = $2,773.00 per month. Cutting your time to 35 hours suggests that you are an hourly employee, because an exempt employee does not work "hours." An exempt employee works a job description and must be available as the job requires.
The employer can reduce your pay -- just not below $2,773. It has nothing to do with the number of hours you are expected to work, since you are presumably exempt from overtime, regardless of the number of hours you actually work.
Finally, unless your pay is reduced by at least 20%, you cannot generally quit and receive unemployment insurance benefits. So, this is something to keep in mind should you choose to refuse the new job description.
Concerning the "scathing" comments about you -- if reputation-injuring statements about you are made to third parties, and they are phrased as factual, rather than as opinion, then that is defamation of character and you can sue for the injury to your reputation. Otherwise you would have no claim for these disparaging remarks.
Defamation is a difficult case to prove -- it would be necessary to carefully review the statements by boardmembers to determine if they are actually defamatory, and further to see if they can actually be proved sufficient to be admissible evidence in court.
Please let me know if I can be of further assistance.
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