Exempt vs. Non-Exempt. Why you might not be the employee you think you are.

You’ve seen it on your contract, or your tax return, but what does it really mean to be an exempt employee? The truth is, a lot of people don’t pay attention to this word until their paycheck comes, and it is missing overtime. But when you inquire with human resources, it turns out that you don’t actually qualify for overtime because of that word on your contract: exempt. So let’s dive in. What does it mean to be exempt? And are you truly an exempt employee? 

What does it mean to be an exempt employee?

An employee that is exempt is not entitled to overtime pay. So, no matter how many hours you work over your agreed upon weekly hours, you will receive no additional pay. The four categories that qualify an exempt employee are: Professional, Administrative, Computer, and Outside Sales. Within each of those categories there are certain specifications that each employee must meet to qualify to be exempt. It is actually harder to be an exempt employee than it is to be a non-exempt employee who does earn over time. That is why a lot of times salaried employees are misclassified and do not fit the criteria to be labeled exempt. This is where you can be owed overtime. Let’s break down each category further. 


To be considered an exempt professional employee, you must be compensated at least $684 per week. Your primary duty must require advanced knowledge in a field of science or learning, and must also be acquired by a course of specialized instruction. 

Common jobs that have a professional exemption are: doctors, teachers, nurses, lawyers/attorneys, and architects. Highly compensated employees paid at least $107,432 annually would also qualify as an exempt employee. 


To be an exempt administrative employee, you must be compensated at least $684 per week. Your primary duty must be non-manual office work directly related to the management, business, or customers. You must also have the ability to exercise discretion and judgment on significant matters. Common jobs that have an administrative exemption are finance/accounting/budgeting/auditing, insurance, quality control, advertising/marketing/research, safety/health, personal management, employee benefits/human relations, computer relations, IT.  


To be an exempt computer employee, you must be compensated at least $684 per week. You must be employed as a computer systems analyst, computer programmer, software engineer, or other similar position in a computer field performing specific job duties.   

Outside Sales 

To be an exempt outside sales employee, you must be making sales, or obtaining orders or contracts for services which will be paid by a client or customer. You must be regularly away from your employer’s place of business. 

So are you really an exempt employee?

If your job tasks or pay do not fall into the category of professional, administrative, computer, or outside sales then you may not actually be an exempt employee. If your job tasks do fall under one of these categories, but your compensation per week does not match what is required by law then you are not an exempt employee. 


So what now?

Now it’s time to reclaim your unpaid overtime! The attorneys at Josephson Dunlap can help you not only reclaim your unpaid overtime, but triple the amount. They can also sue your employer for damages, as well as attorney and court costs. Here is how you can get started: 

  1. Check your job contract and see if you are labeled exempt or nonexempt. 
  2. Find your job category above (professional, administrative, computer, outside sales) and check your job tasks. 

Let’s change this list to a graphic 

  • Key things to look for are: 
    • Do you make $684 per week?
    • Do you manage two or more full time employees OR four part time employees?
    • Do you have management as the primary duty of the position?
    • Do you have genuine input into the job status of other employees 
  1. Make a list of all your job tasks 
  2. Contact Josephson Dunlap to start collecting your unpaid overtime 

Sometimes employee misclassification of salaried employees is by accident, and sometimes it is on purpose. You are entitled to your overtime pay either way. You can receive up to 3x your unpaid overtime, as well as damages and attorney and court case fees. It’s more money than you think, and it is definitely worth pursuing.
Become the employee you should be and start to claim the money you have already earned. You’ve been misled, but we can lead you straight to the path of correct employee classification. Let’s start talking today.

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