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Featured White Paper:
HR’s Guide to Workers’ Comp

Workers' comp has been a workplace staple for a long time, but it can confound even the most seasoned employers and HR professionals.

Download this FREE White Paper to learn workers' comp basics, including a lexicon of helpful terms, a workers' comp checklist to help you manage the process, and information about your employees' role in workplace safety.

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Exempt Additional
Additional HR Resources

Wage & Hour Answers
Finally, wage & hour answers right at your fingertips in one reliable resource

Overtime Ins and Outs
How FLSA applies to exempt and non-exempt employees

Employment Law Manual
All-new 2012 Edition is fully up-to-date with the latest revisions to FMLA andCOBRA and other laws!

Advice for HR
Self-audit your policies and procedures for employment contracts

Basic Training for Supervisors
How supervisors can reduce legal risks at the time of an employee’s termination

Exempt vs Non-exempt Employees

Most workers are classified as either exempt or non-exempt depending on their salary and the type of work they do. The federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) requires that in addition to paying at least the minimum wage employers also must pay overtime to employees who work more than 40 hours in a given workweek, unless they meet certain exceptions. To complicate matters further, many states have wage and hour laws that may have more requirements than the FLSA. Employers must make sure they abide by both federal and state wage and hours laws to avoid legal trouble.

In addition to regular non-exempt employees and exempt employees, there are several other classifications of workers. It’s important to make sure that those workers actually meet the requirements for those classifications in the FLSA and your state’s wage and hour laws. Other classifications include volunteers, trainees, interns, independent contractors, and temporary employees.

Wage and Hour Compliance Manual

Definition of non-exempt employee
Most employees are entitled to overtime pay under the Fair Labor Standards Act. They are called non-exempt employees. Employers must pay them one-and-a-half times their regular rate of pay when they work more than 40 hours in a week. The biggest problem most employers have with nonexempt employees is miscalculating how much overtime workers are owed.

Mastering HR Report: Overtime

Definition of exempt employee
The Fair Labor Standards Act contains dozens of exemptions under which specific categories of employers and employees are exempted from overtime requirements. The most common exemptions are the white-collar exemptions for administrative, executive, and professional employees, computer professionals, and outside sales employees. There is a also a lesser known exemption for certain retail or service organizations. The primary advantages of classifying employees as exempt are that you don’t have to track their hours or pay them overtime, no matter how many hours they work.

Obviously, this is an appealing scenario for employers. However, exemptions from the overtime requirements of the FLSA are just that — exceptions to the rule. They are very narrowly construed, and as the employer, you will always bear the burden of proving that you have correctly classified an employee as exempt.

HR Guide to Employment Law: A practical compliance reference manual covering 14 topics, including overtime

Other issues to consider

  • Comp time. Although there are exceptions, it’s usually illegal to give non-exempt employees comp time (time off) instead of paying them overtime.
  • Child labor. Federal and state laws include special provisions to protect workers younger than 18. These laws can affect the type of work, wages, and hours that an employee can work.
  • Breaks. Employers need to make sure they follow federal and state law requirements regarding breaks, including meal breaks, for workers.

State-by-state comparison of 50 employment laws in all 50 states, including wage and hour laws, child labor, and breaks

Wage and hour law enforcement
The provisions of the FLSA are interpreted and enforced by the U.S. Department of Labor which investigates complaints and sometimes sues when it find violations. Many states also have agencies that enforce state labor laws and investigate complaints.