Exemptions from Overtime Law


Overtime was introduced in the 1930s by Franklin D Roosevelt in the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) as part of an extensive labor law overhaul designed to protect the millions of laborers being taken advantage of across the United States with low wages, long hours, and horrible working conditions. Overtime law legally requires that any non-exempt employee working more then 40 hours a week (and over 8 hours a day in certain states) be paid an overtime wage of one and a half times their normal wage for all hours worked over the overtime threshold.

Many employees are exempt from the FLSA’s overtime provisions due to the nature of the occupations they hold – in fact, over 50 million of the nation’s 120 million workers are exempt from overtime pay for various reasons. Because overtime was designed mainly to protect manual laborers and low-level workers from exploitation, the FLSA exempts many high-level, white collar, and skilled workers from overtime law.

The FLSA exempts three major classes of workers from overtime – Executive employees, Administrative employees, and Professional employees, known collectively as “white collar exemptions” from overtime law. Employees exempt under a “white collar exemption” are usually salaried and do generally non-manual or intellectual work.

Executive Exemptions from Overtime

The Executive exemption applies to any employee whose primary job involves overseeing and managing others as well as general executive duties. In order to be exempt from overtime, a qualifying executive worker must earn at least $455 per week.

Administrative Exemptions from Overtime

An employee who spends the majority of his time doing non-manual labor and administrative tasks (such as data entry, paperwork, etc) is exempted from overtime pay as an Administrative worker. In order to be fully exempt, Administrative employees must make at least $455 a week and spend at least 60% of their time doing administrative duties.


Professional Exemptions from Overtime

Many highly skilled and/or educated employees who earn over $455 a week are exempted from overtime as Professional workers. Employees exempted as professional workers should spend the majority of their time doing intellectual, non-manual work which requires thought and discretion. Teachers and artists are two common examples of occupations which generally fall into this category, as are skilled computer professionals earning over a certain hourly wage in most states.

Other workers exempt from the FLSA’s overtime provisions include most outside salespeople, including any salesperson paid mostly or fully via commission, certain automobile drivers and mechanics, and most farm laborers. Many states have state-specific overtime exemptions for certain occupations or industries, and in some cases override federal overtime law by granting overtime to workers who are exempted in the FLSA. In every state, employers must respect both state and federal overtime regulations, and in the event of an overlap are required to follow whichever law awards their employees the most overtime protection.