FLSA Exempt and Nonexempt Defined

The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) is best known as the law determining the exempt or nonexempt status of jobs and overtime requirements. The law covers minimum wageovertime payhours workedrecord keeping, and youth employment standards for employees both in the private sector and in federal, state, and local governments. The Fair Labor Standards Act is administered by the Wage and Hour Division of the Department of Labor (DOL). For a full overview on complying with the law, see the DOL Wage and Hour Division's FLSA assistance page.

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Overtime Defined

Overtime is work time of more than 40 hours a week on one or more University jobs. Work time is defined as time scheduled for employees to be on work duty and time spent on authorized paid leaves of absence such as vacation leave, sick leave, comp time off, paid military leave, etc. In regard to overtime, employees are divided into two groups:

  1. Exempt: Employees primarily performing work that is not subject to overtime provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act. Overtime pay is not required by FLSA for exempt employees; however, the University chooses to pay overtime to exempt Non-V Class employees.
  2. Nonexempt: Employees primarily performing work that is subject to the overtime provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act. Overtime pay is required.

Overtime pay is regulated by:

  • The Federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), which covers all University employees
  • The Minnesota Fair Labor Standards Act (MFLSA), which covers all University employees
  • Civil Service rules, which require overtime pay for employees in Non-V job classifications (see Civil Service Rule 10, Section 2)
  • Collective bargaining agreements, which require overtime payment for employees in job classifications covered by AFSCME and Teamster union contracts

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The Exemption Test

To determine if a job is exempt (not subject to overtime) or nonexempt (required to be paid overtime at time and a half), the FLSA uses five primary exemption tests: 

  • Executive test
  • Administrative test
  • Professional test
  • Outside sales test
  • Computer test

All work is considered nonexempt until the employer completes an exemption test to document why overtime isn't required. Nonexempt public-sector employees can also earn comp time (time off) instead of overtime pay.

FLSA Exemption Test Summaries

According to current FLSA law, employees must earn at least $455 a week ($23,660 a year) to be exempt from overtime rules under all tests. Employees can also be exempt if they make over $100,000 a year (at least $455 a week as a salary) and regularly meet the criteria in one of the other exemption tests. Here are the exemption tests and their criteria:

Executive Test
Along with (1) passing the salary threshold, positions qualifying for exemption under this test must have a (2) primary duty of “managing the enterprise, or managing a customarily recognized department or subdivision of the enterprise,” (3) “customarily and regularly direct the work of at least two or more other full-time employees or their equivalent,” and (4) must have the authority to hire or fire employees, or recommendations are given particular weight. A separate qualification for exemption under this test is for business owners who own at least 20% of the organization and are actively engaged in the management.
Administrative Test
Along with (1) passing the salary threshold, positions qualifying for exemption under this test must have a primary duty of (2) “performing office or nonmanual work directly related to the management or general business operations of the employer or the employer’s customers,” and the primary duty includes (3) “the exercise of discretion and independent judgment with respect to matters of significance.” In an educational institution an employee qualifies for exemption if the salary threshold is satisfied, as well as the primary duty is “performing administrative functions directly related to academic instruction or training in an educational establishment.”
Professional Test
Along with (1) passing the salary threshold, positions qualifying for exemption under this test must have a primary duty of (2) “performing work requiring advanced knowledge, defined as work which is predominantly intellectual in character and which includes work requiring the exercise of discretion and judgment,” which requires advanced knowledge in a field of science or learning that can be “customarily acquired by a prolonged course of specialized intellectual instruction.” In law or medicine, employees can also be exempt by holding a valid license to practice law or medicine and by being engaged in a practice or an internship or resident program. Creative professionals may be exempt if their primary duty is “performing work requiring invention, imagination, originality, or talent in a recognized field of artistic or creative endeavor.” Teachers in an educational establishment with a primary duty of teaching, tutoring, instructing, or lecturing are considered exempt.
Outside Sales Test
To pass this test, employees must be “regularly engaged away from the employer’s place or places of business,” and the primary duty must be making sales and obtaining orders or contracts for services, which will be paid for by the customer.
Computer Test

Along with (1) passing the salary threshold, positions qualifying for exemption under this test must be employed as (2) “computer systems analyst, computer programmer, software engineer, or other similarly skilled worker in the computer field” performing these type of responsibilities:

  • The application of systems analysis techniques and procedures, including consulting with users, to determine hardware, software or system functional specifications
  • The design, development, documentation, analysis, creation, testing or modification of computer systems or programs, including prototypes, based on and related to user or system design specifications
  • The design, documentation, testing, creation, or modification of computer programs related to machine operating systems
  • A combination of these duties that require the same skills

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Compensation Department Responsibilities

Managers often ask whether a job is exempt or nonexempt. The Compensation Department interprets and enforces exemption at the University. The department reviews all staff job postings and reclassification requests to determine if a position is exempt or nonexempt from overtime regulations. The Office of Human Resources is responsible for establishing and administering policies and procedures that comply with the FLSA.

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Overtime Administration at the U of M

In some cases, the University’s Civil Service rules and union contracts require premium pay (time and a half) even when it is not required by the Fair Labor Standards Act; for example, paying overtime for working on a holiday.

  • Overtime is calculated by the workweek, not the pay period.
  • All overtime must be approved by the responsible administrator before being worked. Failure to obtain approval may result in disciplinary action.
  • Academic staff on a salaried appointment are not eligible for overtime payments.
  • AFSCME and Teamster union contracts and administrative interpretations have information on overtime.

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Overtime FAQs

How do you calculate overtime for employees in nonexempt job classifications?
The FLSA requires that overtime be calculated on the employee’s regular rate of pay, by multiplying 1.5 times the rate of pay by the number of hours over 40 in the workweek. The employee’s regular rate of pay includes all remuneration for employment paid (such as hourly rate or comp rate) to or on behalf of the employee. The regular rate includes extra premiums such as shift differentials and nondiscretionary lump-sum payments (such as stability or career bonus payments). The University uses the higher of applicable hourly rates to calculate overtime payments. The FLSA excludes some payments from the regular rate of pay, such as discretionary bonus payments, reimbursement for travel expense, contributions to retirement funds, and health insurance.
How does travel affect overtime?
Employees in nonexempt jobs who travel on University business are paid as follows:
  • One-day assignments in another city: Nonexempt employees who regularly work at a fixed location (for example, the Twin Cities campus) but are required to travel to another city (such as Duluth) for a one-day assignment (but not overnight) should be compensated for the time they spend traveling. Meal time or “home-to-work” time is not included.
  • Travel of more than one day: Employees working in nonexempt jobs who are required to travel overnight should be compensated for any travel time that occurs during their regular work hours occurring any day of the week. For example, if an employee regularly works 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Monday through Friday, travel time during these hours is considered work time whether it occurs on a weekday, Saturday, or Sunday. Time spent in travel outside of regular work hours is not considered work time.
How is overtime calculated for V-Class, part-time employees?
V-class part-time employees shall be paid or receive compensatory time off at the straight-time rate for any hours the work over their appointment percentage, up to 40 hours. They will be paid at one and a half times their hourly rate or in comp time off for all work over 40 hours in a week.
How are payments calculated when temporarily filling in for a V-Class position?
Whenever an employee is temporarily filling in for a V-class position (through a $/hour augmentation), the department has the option of either paying the time and a half for any overtime hours worked or granting the employee the extra half day vacation allowance per month for the duration of the temporary augmentation.
How is overtime paid with multiple appointments?
University employees may hold more than one appointment. There is no limit to the number of appointments an employee may hold either simultaneously or consecutively. Appointments can be held, simultaneously, in more than one employee group. Employees can simultaneously hold appointments in both exempt and nonexempt job classifications.

Generally the overtime and record-keeping provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act do not apply to employees working in exempt job classifications. However, overtime and record-keeping provisions apply when an employee simultaneously holds appointments in exempt and nonexempt job classifications.

The Multiple Appointments Within and Across Employee Groups matrix explains overtime pay requirements for employees with multiple appointments.

Do technical consultants get overtime pay?
Technical consultants (job code 0011) are not eligible for time and a half. This exempt classification is not covered by the Civil Service rules.
Does on-call time count for overtime?
Hours spent in on-site (on the employer’s premises), on-call status count as regular hours worked and also are counted toward overtime (if the total hours worked that workweek exceed 40). However, a different base pay rate, not lower than the federal minimum wage, may be established for on-site, on-call hours.
Does paid time off count for overtime?
Yes. University practice is to count all paid time (including vacation, sick leave, or paid holiday) toward the 40-hour workweek. For example, a nonexempt employee who works three extra hours on each of two evenings a week during which a scheduled holiday falls should receive overtime pay for the six hours.
What is comp time?
FLSA allows most University employees to choose time off (at one and a half times for each hour worked over 40 in a week) rather than being paid for overtime. The FLSA limits the amount of overtime nonexempt employees can earn to 240 hours of comp time or 160 hours of paid overtime. Police, emergency response, and seasonal employees can earn a maximum of 480 hours of comp time or 320 hours of paid overtime.

Units have full discretion to reasonably restrict the amount of comp time that can be accumulated (with a maximum of 240 hours or 160 hours of actual time worked for all nonexempt employees) and the length of time a comp time-off balance can be carried. Units can establish a rule that employees use comp time before using vacation time.

How is comp time paid out?
Cash payments for accrued comp time can be made at any time and must be paid at the regular rate earned by the employee at the time the employee receives payment. If an employee is transferring or moving from one unit to another unit, the unit where the employee accrued the comp time off must pay it out.

Upon termination, an employee must be paid for unused comp time figured at the average regular rate received by such employee during the last three years of employment (immediately prior to termination) or the final regular rate received by such employee, whichever is higher.

How is overtime calculated for dual appointments?
Overtime pay of one and a half times is required for hours exceeding 40 hours in a workweek in the nonexempt appointment. Overtime pay is calculated on the hourly rate of the higher-paying appointment (base pay plus an augmentation). No lump sum payments are permitted.

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