How to Make Sure My Job Duties Make Me an Exempt Employee

When you receive a salary instead of hourly pay, you might be an exempt employee.

When you receive a salary instead of hourly pay, you might be an exempt employee.

You might think that being classified as an "exempt" employee is a position of status, but you could be losing out on overtime pay if you are classified incorrectly. The U.S. Department of Labor defines exempt status typically as "white collar" workers or people who hold office jobs with a specific amount of authority or discretion. To ensure you are correctly classified as exempt, review the conditions set by the government.

Check your paycheck stub. You must make a minimum salary of $455 a week or $23,660 a year to be classified as an exempt employee, regardless of your job duties or title. This classification applies to executive, administrative, professional, creative, outside sales jobs and some computer positions.

Define the type of job you hold. If you work in an office, have some authority or are an outside sales agent, executive, administrator, computer employee or a professional, you are eligible for consideration as an exempt employee.

Verify the work you perform is non-manual, and that you are involved in some way in the management of the company, employees or a department. If you are an executive, you must also direct the work of two or more full-time employees and have the authority or ability to recommend persons for promotions, hiring, firing, advancement or other changes of status. As an administrator, your work can be related to management or general business operations and involves using your own discretion and independent judgment "with respect to matters of significance." If you make decisions that can affect the company monetarily, you would more than likely be in an exempt position.

Assess your duties to ensure the work you perform requires advanced knowledge or is "intellectual in character." When you need to "exercise consistent judgment and discretion," your knowledge is in the fields of learning or science, or you had to attend a prolonged course of specialized instruction for your job, you can be considered an exempt professional.

Check your duties as a creative professional. To be considered exempt as a creative professional, the work you perform requires imagination, originality, invention or talent in a recognized field of creative or artistic venture, such as writing or editing.

Review your job title. If you are employed as a computer engineer, programmer, analyst or any other type of job that requires advanced computer skills, you can be classified as an exempt employee. This includes positions that involve system analysis techniques and procedures, design, documentation, testing, creating or modification of programs and more.

Tip

  • The litmus tests for exempt status are the minimum salary requirement and the type of responsibility that you have. Exempt employees have the ability to make their own decisions independent of supervision. Typical exempt positions include accountants, office managers, administrators, executives and legal or medical professionals. People who perform manual labor are not considered exempt and are eligible for overtime pay. An exempt person won't receive overtime pay, as she is paid a salary to complete the job, regardless of whether it takes 20 hours a week or 50 to complete.

Warning

  • When you are classified incorrectly as an exempt employee, you might have to take your case to your state's labor board or labor department to receive retroactive compensation. Employers are vulnerable to lawsuits when they classify their employees as exempt just to avoid overtime pay.
 

About the Author

As a native Californian, artist, businessperson, contractor, journalist and published author, Laurie Reeves began writing professionally in 1975. She has written for newspapers, magazines, online publications and sites. In 2003, she and her husband moved into the home she designed, they built and decorated. Reeves graduated from San Diego's Coleman College.

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