How to Determine if a Job is Exempt or Non-Exempt

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The terms non-exempt and exempt can cause a lot of confusion for workers and employers. Exemption status determines if you receive overtime pay for working more than 40 hours in a work week. The exemptions are governed by the Fair Labors Standard Act (FLSA).

Non-exempt 

Non-exempt employees must be paid at least the minimum wage and overtime pay for any work performed over 40 hours worked in a week. This time must be paid at a rate of time and one half of their regular pay rate for each hour of overtime.

Exempt

Exempt employees are not granted the same protection under the FLSA, therefore they are paid the same dollar amount regardless of the number of hours worked in a week. Exemptions from the overtime requirements of the FLSA are just that—exceptions to the rule. They are very narrowly construed, and as the employer, you will always bear the burden of proving that you have correctly classified an employee as exempt. When in doubt on the classification of a job, it is best to make them non-exempt.

For most professions, an individual is an exempt employee if he or she meets all of the following three tests: 

  1. Is paid at least $23,000 per year ($455 per week)
  2. Is paid on a salary basis
  3. Performs exempt job duties

But how do you know if the individual performs exempt duties?  As a general rule, exempt employees tend to perform relatively high-level duties with respect to the company’s overall operations.

The most common FLSA exemptions are white collar exemptions and are broken down into five main categories, including: 

  1. Executive
  2. Administrative
  3. Professional
  4. Outside sales
  5. Computer

Other issues

There are also some other concerns to consider when determining non-exempt and exempt status.

  • Time off. Although there are exceptions, it’s usually illegal to give non-exempt employees time off instead of paying them overtime.
  • Child labor. Federal and state laws include special requirements to protect workers under the age of 18. These laws can affect the type of work, wages, and hours that an employee can complete.
  • Breaks. Employers need to make sure they follow federal and state law requirements regarding breaks, including meal breaks, for their employees.

If you have any additional questions regarding non-exempt and exempt employees, and are an ERC Member, contact our HR Help Desk or visit the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) FLSA page at http://www.dol.gov/whd/flsa/.

By providing you with information that may be contained in this article, the Employers Resource Council (ERC) is not providing a qualified legal opinion concerning any particular human resource issue. As such, research information that ERC provides to its members should not be relied upon or considered a substitute for legal advice. The information that we provide is for general employer use and not necessarily for individual application.  We also recommend that you consult your legal counsel regarding workplace matters when and if appropriate.

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