Employers do not have to pay overtime wages to employees who are exempt. Many employers fail to pay overtime wages they owe because they have misclassified their employees as exempt. Some do this on purpose to cheat their employees out of overtime pay, but there are also employers who make an honest mistake because they do not understand the law. Either way, if you have been classified as an exempt employee, you need to know whether or not you are truly exempt, and if not your employer may owe you back pay.
In jobs where you must perform both exempt and non-exempt job duties, you are normally entitled to overtime pay for weeks during which you perform non-exempt duties, even if you also perform exempt duties during that week.
Exemptions are based on actual duties, not on your job title. The rules defining exemptions are very strict and lean in favor of the employee. The burden to prove exempt status is on the employer. A common example of misclassification is an employee who has a job title of manager, but whose job duties consist primarily of manual labor.
The Department of Labor (DOL) has posted fact sheets on its website to help employers and employees understand the most current overtime regulations and determine whether or not they are truly exempt. Some of the most common exemptions include:
- Outside sales
- Computer professionals
- Commissioned sales employees of retail or service establishments
- Certain drivers, driver’s helpers, loaders and mechanics
- Farm workers on small farms
- Auto dealership salesmen, parts men, and mechanics
- Seasonal and recreational workers
Are You Really Exempt?
Although the titles may sound straightforward, there are multiple conditions which must exist for each exemption. For example, to qualify for the administrative exemption, your primary duty must be non-manual work directly related to management, including decision making. Many employers misunderstand or try to push the limits of exemptions, mixing exempt and non-exempt duties in a way that can be confusing to employees.
If you have been classified as exempt and you feel that you may have been misclassified, you need to talk to an experienced wage and hour attorney about your situation. Each case is unique, and your attorney can help you determine whether or not you are entitled to overtime pay under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and your state’s labor laws.
The attorneys at Jacoby & Meyers have handled many wage and hour claims, and we can advise you of your legal rights. If your employer owes you back pay for unpaid overtime, we can help you receive the compensation you deserve.