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What is an Exempt Employee?

The US Federal Labor Standards Act's Definition


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An exempt employee is a worker who is not subject to the minimum wage and overtime requirements of the US Federal Labor Standards Act (FLSA). According to the Wage and Hours Division of the US Department of Labor, only "bona fide [genuine] executive, administrative, professional, computer and outside sales employees" who meet certain requirements are exempt from minimum wage and overtime laws. Do you fit into this category of employees? Why do you need to know? If you work more than 40 hours a week and are not what the law defines as an exempt employee, you have a right to earn at least one and a half times your regular rate of pay for that additional time.

An employee is not considered exempt simply because of his or her job title. In addition to earning a salary of at least $455 per week, an individual's job duties must follow a set of rules established by the FLSA. These rules differ by type of employee.

Executive Employee: The employee's primary job duties must involve "managing the enterprise, or managing a customarily recognized department or subdivision of the enterprise." In addition, he or she must supervise at least two full-time employees and have the authority to hire or fire other workers or be able to significantly influence those decisions.

Administrative Employee: An individual's primary duties must include office work that is directly related to the business operations of his or her employer or its customers. The administrative employee also must use his or her own judgement when dealing with important matters.

Professional Employee: There are two types of professional employees: learned and creative. A learned professional's work must be intellectual in nature and must be in a field of science or learning. The employee must be trained to perform that work in advance through "a course of specialized intellectual instruction," according to the FLSA's specifications. To be considered a creative professional, the employee's work must be in a recognized creative or artistic field such as writing, music, performing arts or graphic arts.

Computer Employees: Those who work in computer-related occupations, for example computer systems analysts, computer programmers and computer software engineers, are exempt as long as their work involves a combination of primary duties that include applying systems analysis techniques and procedures, consulting with users to determine specifications, and designing, developing, analyzing, creating, testing and modifying computer systems and programs.

Outside Sales Employee: Sales representatives who work at locations other than their employers' primary place of business, making sales or obtaining orders from customers, are considered exempt.

What Types of Workers Are Never Exempt?

Blue collar workers and first responders are never exempt from the minimum wage and overtime provisions of the FLSA. Blue collar workers use their hands, physical skill and energy to do their jobs. They include construction workers, electricians, carpenters and reinforcing iron and rebar workers. First responders are police officers, firefighters and paramedics.

Source: Fact Sheet #17A: Exemption for Executive, Administrative, Professional, Computer & Outside Sales Employees Under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA)

Disclaimer: Please note that the information contained on this page as well as elsewhere on this website is for guidance, ideas and assistance only. Dawn Rosenberg McKay makes every effort to offer accurate advice and information on this site but she is not an attorney. Therefore the content on the site is not to be construed as legal advice. Employment laws and regulations vary by location so check government resources or legal counsel when in doubt about your particular situation.


Also Known As: salaried employee

Common Misspellings: excempt employee

Examples: Although Jennifer worked 50 hours last week, as an exempt employee she wasn't eligible for overtime pay.

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