The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) recognizes two categories of employees: “nonexempt” and “exempt.” Federal laws regarding regular hours and overtime pay apply to nonexempt employees only. In general terms, nonexempt employees are those employees paid an hourly wage, and exempt employees are those receiving salaries, though there are exceptions in each direction. With a few specific exceptions outlined in the FLSA (including some motor vehicle operators and employees of seasonal recreation establishments), any “blue-collar” job primarily involving manual labor is not exempt.
Exemptions in the FLSA to laws regarding regular hours and overtime pay are granted to jobs that are executive, administrative, professional, computer-related, or involving outside sales. Each of these exemptions has its own set of qualifying guidelines, all of which must be met for the exemption to be granted.
Regular Pay and Exemption Qualifications
For many of these exemptions, qualifications include a minimum salary or rate of pay, and a description of eligible employees’ primary duties, which are of a non-physical, managerial, or intellectual nature. Each individual employee is typically individually evaluated to determine whether the employee’s customary duties match the outlined requirements, and a job title is not a guarantee of exemption.
Generally an employee’s exemption status is determined by the importance of the various types of work that comprise their duties, not the percentage of their time spent on them. Consider an employee whose duties include a significant number of management responsibilities — overseeing other workers and engaging in tasks involving individual judgment and authority required for the business’s operation. That employee would receive the executive exemption even if more of their time was taken up with sales or other work.
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