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Independent judgment often key to exempt status

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Smart employers make sure that employees classified under the administrative exemption have the authority to make independent decisions.

Recent case: A group of complaint-handling specialists for Cordis—a medical device manufacturer—sued, claiming they shouldn’t have been classified as exempt under the administrative exemption to the Fair Labor Standards Act’s overtime provisions.

They said their work consisted largely of using a “decision tree” to decide whether a product failure was serious enough to be reported to authorities.

Cordis argued that the specialists were empowered to conduct investigations, interview witnesses and gather information before using the decision tree. They also had discretion in how they answered the questions in the tree.

The court agreed that they used independent judgment and were exempt. (Fulwood-Kelley, et al., v. Cordis, No. 09-20920, SD FL, 2009)

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