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FLSA: Exempt vs. Non-Exempt Employees

The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) is a complex, multifaceted law. Contained within this law are many complex concepts, rules and terminology. Although mastering this law is a daunting task, doing so can be extremely rewarding, because this law offers many protections and benefits for workers. One of the key concepts within the FLSA is the concept of an “exempt” worker. In this post, we will go over the idea of exempt status, being sure to differentiate this status from other related statuses, such as non-exempt, and discussing the test which is applied in individual cases.

Exclusions vs. Exemptions

The first thing we should do when we define exempt and non-exempt workers is differentiate these classifications from “excluded” workers. Certain workers are specifically excluded from coverage under the FLSA. This means that they aren’t governed by the FLSA at all, and in fact may be governed by other statutes altogether.

There are two main categories of jobs which are specifically excluded under the FLSA. The first category refers to jobs which are expressly excluded under the language of the FLSA statute. For instance, movie theater workers and agricultural workers fall under this category. The other category refers to workers who are not governed by the FLSA because they are governed by another statute. This applies to many truck drivers, for instance, who are instead governed by the Motor Carriers Act, rather than the FLSA.

Exempt vs. Non-Exempt Employees Under the FLSA

Exempt and non-exempt workers, therefore, are both covered by the FLSA, although these two classifications are treated differently under the FLSA. This differentiates these statuses from excluded workers, who aren’t governed by the FLSA at all. Under the FLSA, exempt workers are not entitled to overtime pay, while non-exempt workers are entitled to overtime pay. Most employees who are covered by the FLSA are non-exempt; however, some employees are non-exempt, and understanding the reasoning involved in sorting between these statuses is highly important.

Exempt Status Test

The FLSA utilizes a particular test to sort between exempt and non-exempt employees. This test is utilized in nearly all cases, with few exceptions. In order to qualify as an exempt employee, the employee in question must meet three criteria: (1) the employee must make at least $35,568 per year, (2) the employee must be paid on a salary basis, and (3) the employee must perform exempt job duties, as defined by the FLSA. The first criterion within this test is pretty straightforward, because the $35,568 yearly salary is essentially a bright line rule. However, the two other criteria have more room for debate, and so there may be complex analyses required to determine the outcome of a particular case. In a future post, we may dissect these three criteria of the exempt test in more detail.

Importantly, certain jobs are automatically classified by exempt under the FLSA. As one example, outside sales employees are classified as exempt as a general rule. The exempt test, therefore, applies to cases which are specifically addressed under the FLSA.

Contact Trembly Law for Additional Info

Hopefully, this introduction provides a reasonable overview of exempt and non-exempt status under the FLSA. There is more to know about each of these statuses, but this should serve as a decent survey. In the future, as mentioned, we may return to this topic and explore these concepts in greater depth. For now, if you have questions about these issues, or if you have a particular FLSA case, please give the Trembly Law Firm a call today. Call us at (305) 431-5678 today for more information.

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