What you call an employee doesn’t determine whether she’s properly classified as exempt. What matters are her duties.
If they are routine and menial in nature, she’s not exempt, even if she holds a lofty title within the organization.
Recent case: Before she was hired full time as a director (making $60,000 per year) by a nonprofit devoted to spaying and neutering feral cats, Elizabeth was a member of the organization’s board.
Her duties included opening the clinic each morning, preparing cat traps, answering questions from the public and doing general clerical work such as filing. She referred to herself as a salaried manager.
When she was terminated for frequent late arrivals, she sued, alleging she was owed overtime for the many hours over 40 per week she had routinely worked. She claimed she had been improperly classified as an exempt administrative employee because her job duties were routine and clerical in nature.
The court agreed. It said the title of director didn’t matter. Nor did Elizabeth’s own statements about being a-level employee.
What mattered was what she did—none of which involved managing the enterprise in any significant way. (Cava v. FixNation, No. B260516, Court of Appeal of California, 2015)
Final note: Neither high salary or a fancy title makes an employee exempt. Make sure employees regularly perform high-level work commensurate with their specific exemption. If an employee isn’t classified correctly, fix the problem and pay any missed overtime.