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WORKPLACE Q&A

Exempt status means no overtime

June 15, 2008|From Newsday

We work in the back-office operations for a small bank. Sometimes the job requires us to come in early, stay late or work on weekends without any additional compensation. We figure that working early and staying late are part of the job since we are considered exempt. But we feel it's unfair for the bank to require us to work on weekends without extra compensation. When we went to human resources to complain about the double standard, the manager also said the extra time comes with the job. Is there anything we can do about this?

If you and your colleagues are truly exempt, the bank doesn't have to pay you for working extra hours, whether during the week or on weekends. To be exempt means that you fall into the executive, professional, administrative or outside-sales categories. Those workers don't have to be paid for all the hours they work, but they generally must earn at least $455 a week, among other criteria.

Too many companies do a poor job of explaining to employees how their classification affects their legal entitlements in the workplace. And the classifications have to be bona fide, based on U.S. Labor Department regulations.

Employment attorney Ellen Storch, an associate at Moritt Hock Hamroff & Horowitz in Garden City, N.Y., explains the difference between exempt and nonexempt employees.

"Employees who are exempt from the wage and hour laws are not entitled to overtime, even when they work after hours and on weekends," she said. "Nonexempt employees are, by contrast, entitled to time-and-a-half for every hour worked in excess of 40 in a workweek."

The key for you and your colleagues is to obtain a clarification of your status, which by law has to be based on your duties within the categories listed above.

"If the employee and her co-workers believe they should be receiving overtime," Storch said, "they should ask their company to reevaluate their employment classifications and advise them whether they are considered by the company to be exempt or nonexempt."

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