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Clerical tasks don’t defeat administrative exemption

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in Meeting Management,Office Management

Here's one more reason to double-check your job descriptions: Some exempt employees may try to claim they're entitled to overtime pay simply because they spend a fair amount of time on filing and typing.

Make sure their job descriptions emphasize that the employee's primary duties involve the exercise of discretion and independent judgment, and don't mention clerical tasks.

These days, few employees have the luxury of a secretary. Many perform their own administrative tasks, which they previously assigned to hourly support staff. But even exempt employees who find large chunks of their day devoted to such mundane tasks don't lose their exempt-employee status.

So long as their major responsibilities involve discretion and independent judgment, employees won't be entitled to overtime pay simply because they perform some clerical work.

Case in point: Diane O'Bryant worked her way up from an hourly clerical position to become an administrator for a Reading city agency. Her job entailed processing fair-housing complaints and doing a weekly TV show on housing issues. But she spent much of her time filling out forms, filing and typing. O'Bryant sued, alleging she was entitled to overtime pay because of the amount of time she devoted to clerical tasks.

The 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals disagreed and tossed out the case. It reasoned that even if she spent more than 40 percent of her time on clerical work, her main responsibilities were to enforce laws and produce a TV show, which required discretion and independent judgment. Therefore, she was exempt, not hourly. (O'Bryant v. City of Reading, No. 05-4259, 3rd Cir., 2006)  

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