How do I know if I am an exempt or nonexempt employee?

The terms “exempt” and “non-exempt” might be some of the most confusing in employment law. An exempt employee is exempt from compensation regulations for overtime work. However, this does not mean that exempt employees won’t have to work overtime as part of their job.

The reason this distinction matters is that it affects the payment of wages and taxes. The latter is why the government is concerned with exempt status, but the former is most likely to affect you. If you’re a non-exempt worker, your employer must follow strict overtime rules when paying you for your labor. If they don’t, you can file a lawsuit to recover lost wages and additional punitive damages.

If you think you’re being underpaid by your employer but don’t know your status, finding out is as simple as asking an attorney, “How do I know if I am an exempt or non-exempt employee?”

Your lawyer will be able to answer that question definitively and determine whether you have recourse to recover unpaid wages. Don’t wait if you think you’ve been compensated unfairly. Contact Morgan & Morgan today for a free case evaluation.

What are Indications That You Might Be Exempt?

The first clue an attorney will look for when determining your exemption status is whether you receive a salary.

Nearly all exempt workers hold a salaried position, and almost all non-exempt workers are paid hourly. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that all salaried workers are exempt.

Even if you’re a salaried worker, you probably aren’t exempt if your position isn’t considered high-rank or high-skill. You also likely aren’t exempt if you make less than $684 per week, which comes out to just over $35,000 a year.

Exempt employees usually work in the following fields or capacities:

  • Outside sales
  • Software or computing
  • Creative roles
  • Executive positions
  • Administration
  • Skilled professions (such as lawyers and accountants)

Many positions are clearly exempt or non-exempt, but a fair number also fall into a gray area. If you aren’t sure you’re being correctly categorized, it’s a good idea to consult a lawyer. There’s a chance your employer is intentionally miscategorizing you to avoid paying overtime. As nefarious as it sounds, it happens all the time. The seasoned legal team at Morgan and Morgan knows what warning signs to look for and how to hold dishonest employers accountable.

What are The Benefits of Being Non-Exempt?

The easiest way to determine whether your employer considers you exempt is to look at a paycheck on a week you worked overtime. If you were paid time-and-a-half beyond the 40-hour mark, then your employer is treating you as a non-exempt employee.

The company you work for isn’t paying you extra money because they’re generous. Employers are required to pay time-and-a-half to all non-exempt employees that work overtime. If an employer doesn’t pay you extra for that time, they’re violating your labor rights, and you can take civil action to recover the money you should have been paid.

How Do Employers Misrepresent Exemption Status?

Because exemption status can be tricky to determine, employers sometimes intentionally attempt to misrepresent their employees’ exemption statuses.

For example, certain tasks and activities are considered non-exempt activities. If those activities make up the majority of your work, you’re not an exempt employee, regardless of how much you’re paid or whether you receive a salary.

What Do You Do If You’re Being Underpaid?

If your employer knowingly misrepresents your exemption status to avoid paying you the overtime hours you deserve, you can file a lawsuit to recover those hours.

When you decide to pursue litigation, you should preserve all records of the hours you’ve worked and what you were paid for them. These records will help your attorney prove that you were inadequately compensated for your time.

Once you’ve retained a lawyer, avoid speaking to anyone else about your claim. Your lawyer will act as your primary liaison with your employer and other relevant parties. With any luck, they’ll be able to correct the situation and win you compensation while allowing you to keep your job.

Can I Refuse Overtime Work If I’m Exempt?

The answer depends on the specifics of your employment contract. As a general rule, however, your exemption status does not protect you from being required to work overtime. If you need to work overtime to complete the work you agreed to, your employer can require it and fire you if you refuse.

Can I Receive Extra Pay for Overtime Work If I’m Exempt?

If you’re an exempt employee, you typically won’t receive additional pay for overtime work. However, there are exceptions to this rule. If you’re performing non-exempt work while pulling overtime, you may be eligible for overtime pay.

This is a corner-case situation that deals with very complicated matters of law. An experienced employment attorney is best equipped to help you determine whether you’re eligible for overtime pay even though you’re working as an exempt employee.

Morgan & Morgan Will Help You Understand Your Rights

Non-exempt employees are guaranteed extra pay when they work more than 40 hours in a week. It’s a federal rule that can’t be ignored or circumvented, no matter how creative an employer gets.

If your employer hasn’t been paying you for overtime work, you may have a right to remuneration. Contact Morgan and Morgan right away to receive a free case evaluation. One of our knowledgeable attorneys will review the circumstances of your case and lay out your legal options, which may include the possibility of financial compensation.