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Computer (Information Technology – IT) Employee Exemption under the Fair Labor Standards Act | Hiring, Business & HR in NY, NJ, CT

Computer (Information Technology – IT) Employee Exemption under the Fair Labor Standards Act

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FLSA - computer Information Technology employees exempt or non-exemptThe Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) dictates overtime eligibility and exemption for specific sectors of industry in this country. The logistics surrounding those that are exempt and nonexempt can seem idiosyncratic, but are outlined to ensure an underlying sense of equity in the wages of skilled and unskilled laborers. Computer-related occupations are subject to the same scrutiny of standards in establishing exemption regulations, the specifics of which are detailed below.

FLSA falls under the U.S. Department of Labor’s (DOL) Wage and Hour Division, and is a regulatory doctrine setting nationwide standards for minimum wages, overtime and child labor in both the private sector and federal, state and local governments. As dynamic as our national economy is, so are job descriptions and duties, causing the FLSA to be continuously re-assessed and updated for specific positions and industries.

The underlying principal of our American wage-earning system is that all workers will be paid at least the Federal minimum wage (some states require higher minimum wages than this Federal rate) per hour for up to 40 hours a week; anything worked over 40 hours will be paid at 1.5 times this hourly rate. These are the nonexempt employees detailed in the FLSA; these workers are eligible for, and must be accurately paid overtime wages.

There are the aforementioned nonexempt (because of minimum-wage compensation) employees and everyone else who is either exempt or nonexempt for minimum wage and overtime based on reasons either job duty-related or compensation-related. The FLSA states that job titles, alone, do not determine an exempt status. Therefore, when specifying exemption or nonexemption, a fine-tooth-comb is often applied to discern between the two. When exemption is claimed by an employer, it must take care to follow all of the regulations outlined by the FLSA and overseen by the DOL.

Sections 13(a)(1) and 13(a)(17) of the FLSA provide an exemption from both minimum wage and overtime pay for computer systems analysts, computer programmers, software engineers and other similarly skilled workers in the computer field who meet certain tests for their job duties and are paid either at least $455/week on a salary basis or at a rate no less than $27.63 on an hourly basis.

The Computer Employee Exemption must be based on the above guidelines of sections 13(a)(1) and 13(a)(17) and these employees’ primary duties must consist of one of the following:

  • The application of systems analysis techniques and procedures, including consulting with users, to determine hardware, software or system functional specifications
  • The design, development, documentation, analysis, creation, testing or modification of computer systems or programs, including prototypes, based on and related to user or system design specifications
  • The design, documentation, testing, creation or modification of computer programs related to machine operating systems OR
  • A combination of the aforementioned duties, the performance of which requires the same level of skills

This exemption does not apply to those jobs related to computer repair or manufacture. Using a computer on the job is not enough to determine exemption; IT support specialists who install, configure and test software, hardware and networks do not adhere to these exemptions.

In Martin v. Indiana Michigan Power Company the employer reorganized and subsequently changed the job title of someone to IT Support Specialist, making the employee exempt. Because the job itself really had no technical requirements beyond the employee’s basic high school education, the court ruled that the worker was nonexempt.

Author: Stacia Argoudelis

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