administrative staff overtime lawyer

Not all employees are entitled to overtime under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). One particular exemption that applies to some workers is the administrative exemption. Despite the similarity in names, however, most administrative employees – such as administrative assistants, executive assistants, and secretaries – do not fall under this exception to federal overtime rules. If you’re an administrative worker who isn’t being compensated for overtime despite putting in over 40 hours per week, it’s time to find out if you may be owed overtime pay. 

The General Overtime Requirement

The FLSA requires that non-exempt workers be paid for all hours worked over 40 during a week. The rate of pay must be at least one-and-a-half times the worker’s regular hourly pay. For this reason, overtime is called time and a half. Employers use a number of illegal schemes to try to cheat employees out of overtime. In some cases, employers (either intentionally or unintentionally) misapply one of several exemptions permitted by the FLSA. This is where the administrative exemption is relevant.

The Administrative Exemption to Overtime

A worker who is not entitled to overtime pay is known as “exempt” under the FLSA. Note, however, that state or local exemptions may differ from federal ones. In a case like this, the employer must follow the law that is more beneficial to the worker.

Regarding the FLSA’s exemptions, the one that is most often incorrectly applied to administrative employees is the administrative exemption. Simply because an employee does some administrative work does not, alone, permit the employer to use the administrative exemption and refuse to pay overtime. The burden is always on the employer to correctly apply any exemptions claimed for employees.

To meet the administrative exemption, all of the following criteria must be met:

  • The employee must be paid on a salary or fee basis (as defined) at a rate of not less than $684 per week;
  • The employee’s primary duty must be performing office or non-manual work that is directly related to the management or general business operations of the employer or the employer’s customers; and
  • The employee’s primary duty must include the exercise of discretion and independent judgment with respect to matters of significance

We will take a closer look at the second two elements below.

Examining the “Primary Duties”

There are two primary duties mentioned above that are key to the employer being able to claim the administrative exemption:

Primary Duty Directly Related to Management or General Business Operations

The employee’s work must directly relate to assisting with the running or servicing of the business. Two examples that would not fit this criterion, under the FLSA, are working on a manufacturing production line and selling products in a retail or service establishment. Some examples of activities that are directly related to management or general business operations include work in such matters as:

  • Tax, finance, accounting, budgeting, or auditing
  • Insurance
  • Quality control or safety and health
  • Purchasing or procurement
  • Advertising or marketing
  • Research
  • Personnel management, human resources, or employee benefits
  • Labor relations, public relations, or government relations
  • Computer network and Internet and database administration
  • Legal and regulatory compliance
  • Advising or consulting work for customers or clients of the employer

Primary Duty That Includes the Exercise of Discretion and Independent Judgment

This behavior usually involves comparing and evaluating possible courses of action and then deciding which one to take. There is a strong implication that the employee actually has the authority to make an independent choice that is free from immediate direction or supervision. In considering whether this test is met, one must examine such factors as whether the employee:

  • Possesses authority to formulate, affect, interpret, or implement management policies or operating practices
  • Executes major assignments in conducting business operations
  • Performs work that significantly affects business operations
  • Has the authority to commit or bind the employer in matters with significant financial consequences
  • Can waive or deviate from established policies and procedures without prior approval
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What Is A “Matter of Significance”?

The third element of the administrative exemption includes consideration of whether the employee’s exercise of discretion and judgment touches on matters of significance. This essentially refers to how important or consequential the work is. But it is not enough that if the employee fails to do his or her job correctly, the employer will suffer financial losses. This would be too broad of a definition and could include nearly anyone in the business. Whether this factor has been met must be decided in light of all facts, on a case-by-case basis.

What To Do If You’ve Been Misclassified As “Exempt”

If you believe the work you do does not rise to the level required for the administrative exemption, and you have worked more than 40 hours per week, you could be owed up to double your unpaid back overtime. Remember, job titles and descriptions of job duties are not the main determining factors. Nor does it matter whether your employer has asked you to sign a contract that states you fall under the administrative exemption or are otherwise not entitled to overtime. Instead, the actual work you do must be compared to the FLSA’s standards, as well as any applicable state or local rules.

If you believe you are entitled to overtime that you aren’t receiving, The Lore Law Firm can assist you in recovering the compensation you deserve. Submit our free and confidential client intake form so we can review your situation today.