Defining 'exempt' and 'nonexempt' — Business Management Daily: Free Reports on Human Resources, Employment Law, Office Management, Office Communication, Office Technology and Small Business Tax Business Management Daily
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Defining 'exempt' and 'nonexempt'

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in The HR Specialist Forum

Question: “I’m in desperate need of some way to explain the concept of exempt and nonexempt employees to top management in my company. I know there are strict legal definitions, but I wish someone would come up with an informative shorthand description of the difference between the two categories. I also need a way to impress on management the importance of carefully distinguishing between exempt and nonexempt status. Any advice?” — Ron C., Oklahoma


It’s a perennial HR challenge: Determining whether an employee is exempt from the overtime requirements of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).

In a nutshell: Exempt workers aren’t eligible for overtime pay. Rather, they’re paid for the job they do, not the hours they keep.

Here are the key considerations in deciding whether an employee is exempt or nonexempt under the FLSA:

1. Does the employee earn a salary?
2. Does the employee hold a position with duties the U.S. Labor Department designates as appropriate for exempt positions? (Generally, those positions fall into one of these categories: executive, administrative, "learned," computer or creative professionals, or outside sales people.)

For free resources to help you make the exempt/nonexempt call, see HR Specialist's article "Who’s exempt, who’s not? Free FLSA checklist helps you decide" (

-- HR Weekly editors

Does anyone know if religious institutions are exempt for complying with these laws?

Check FLSA for your state. The definitions are very clear.

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