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It is an unfortunately common misconception that employees who are paid a salary are always ineligible to receive overtime payments. The fact of the matter is that an employee’s status as an hourly or a salaried employee is never solely determinative of his or her ability to receive such compensation. The term “salary” simply means that an employee receives an identical amount of pay during each relevant period, and it is not the proper means by which to assess overtime eligibility.

Key factors in overtime eligibility

The key to determining whether a given employee is eligible to receive overtime pay is a thorough examination of their duties, wages and the classification of employment into which they fall. Broadly speaking, employees earning less than $23,600 per year may well be eligible for overtime, as are individuals in non-management roles who undertake manual labor, secretarial or food service work. Salaried employees earning less than $455 weekly can also receive overtime. Unless specific duties and/or an official job description place an individual into an exempt role (professional, information technology and administrative roles are good examples of this), even salaried employees making more than $455 weekly can be awarded overtime.

What constitutes a “covered” employer?

The bottom line is that individuals working for employers covered under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) are broadly entitled to overtime pay, unless they meet a specifically outlined exemption. “Covered” employers include:

  • Hospitals and other healthcare providers
  • Schools and colleges
  • Federal, state and local governmental entities
  • Business and other organizations whose yearly dollar sales or receipt volumes meet or exceed $500,000.

Of course, exemptions do abound, and it is important for anyone considering pursuing a claim for back overtime to have a good understanding of what type of position they actually held or continue to hold. It is useful to note, however, that exemptions are construed narrowly against the employer claiming them, and the employer bears the burden of demonstrating their validity when challenged. Some commonly-asserted exemptions include:

  • Professionals in the computer industry who earn at or above $27.63 per hour
  • Farmhands working for small operations
  • Service technicians and salesmen working for auto dealerships
  • Commissioned sales staff employed by retailers who receive no less than 50% of earnings in the form of commission and whose earnings average at least 1.5 times the prevailing minimum wage
  • Administrative, executive and professional employees who receive salaries

A whole host of other exemptions to overtime pay are routinely asserted by employees wishing to withstand an employee’s action for back overtime pay. Fortunately, just because an employer labels an employee “exempt,” that does not necessarily make it so. The job title is not what matters, but rather it is the actual substance of the tasks performed. A Florida wage and hour lawyer can help assess the true nature of any employment relationship and determine whether an action for unpaid overtime is appropriate.

Securing the overtime compensation employees deserve

The available time period for filing a claim for back overtime wages is not unlimited, and it is important to act quickly in order to preserve access to witnesses, records and other vital evidence. Those who suspect that they have been denied the overtime pay to which they are entitled should therefore seek the assistance of an overtime and employment attorney who can get to the heart of the matter and pursue justice on their behalf.