In order to protect workers who frequently don’t have much leverage when negotiating compensation with their employers, the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) provides a federal minimum wage, defines overtime as any time spent working after eight hours a day or forty hours a week, and requires employers to pay their workers one and one-half times their normal hourly rate for all the overtime they spend working. In addition to the federal requirements to treat workers fairly, each state and city has their own laws protecting local workers, so employers conducting business in the U.S. need to be aware of all the employment laws that apply to them.
Despite the well-known overtime requirements, the FLSA does allow some employees to be held exempt from those requirements, but those exemptions are not as well known. As a result, many employers can get away with refusing to pay their workers for the overtime hours they work if those employees are not sure if they fit into one of the categories that qualify for overtime compensation.
The FLSA is very specific about the requirements employees need to meet in order to qualify for the overtime exemption, but they fit into three general categories: administrative, executive, and professional. Under the administrative category are employees who perform primarily office work and provide administrative assistance directly to an executive. The executive category covers anyone who spends the majority of their time at work managing other employees and has direct say in the hiring and firing of those employees. The professional category consists of any worker whose job requires them to have a certain set of skills or level of education in order to perform their job, such as doctors, lawyers, artists, musicians, etc. Continue reading