Focus on duties, not title, to decide overtime eligibility — Business Management Daily: Free Reports on Human Resources, Employment Law, Office Management, Office Communication, Office Technology and Small Business Tax Business Management Daily

Focus on duties, not title, to decide overtime eligibility

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Managers are exempt from overtime, right? Wrong. The term "manager" means different things in different organizations. That's why it's important to look at each employee's specific duties and responsibilities when deciding whether he or she is eligible for overtime under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).

That's especially true in specific industries that have enjoyed overtime exemptions for years. Most are based on unique jobs with special requirements, such as sailors who work on ships at sea and truckers who move goods from state to state.

But attempts to stretch these industry-specific exemptions to other jobs often fail and result in penalties and retroactive overtime pay. It can easily happen if you don't look beyond job titles to actual job duties.

Recent case: A dozen drivers sued the Pittsburgh Transportation Company (PTC), a private bus company that provided transportation for the disabled. The drivers routinely drove more than 40 hours per week, but the PTC didn't pay overtime, arguing that they were exempt because the Motor Carrier Act excludes many truck drivers from the FLSA.

However, that law refers to drivers who are involved in interstate commerce or move goods across state lines. The PTC bus drivers transported customers to and from doctor appointments.

The court asked the company to prove that its drivers were engaged in interstate commerce, such as delivering riders to airports. But the PTC couldn't, so it had to pay the drivers overtime. Labeling the employees as exempt truck drivers wasn't enough; what counted was how they actually did their jobs. (Packard v. Pittsburgh Transportation Co., No 03-3-88, 3rd Cir., 2005)

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