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Exempt or nonexempt: If you’re a nationwide employer, one size may not fit all

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in Leaders & Managers,Management Training

If you’re a multistate employer, consider this when deciding which employees are exempt from overtime and which are not: It might seem sensible to create uniform job descriptions that apply nationwide, but that could cause unnecessary trouble.

Smart employers give some flexibility so local supervisors can tailor jobs for the unique circumstances at each location. This limited autonomy—plus input from workers—may kill a class-action lawsuit should one or two employees you term exempt challenge the classification on behalf of all “similarly situated” employees.

Recent case: John Gromek worked as an assistant store manager for Big Lots, a nationwide chain of discount stores. He sued, alleging the retailer wrongfully classified him and all other assistant store managers as exempt. He sought class certification to represent everyone Big Lots had designated an assistant store manager.

The court rejected the request because not all stores were alike and not every assistant store manager had identical duties.

Store managers had sufficient discretion to direct work that the classification for one assistant store manager might be proper, but in another situation might not be. (Gromek v. Big Lots, No. 10-C-4070, ND IL, 2010)

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