The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) exempts employees with certain executive, administrative, or professional job duties from the requirement that they receive overtime pay for hours worked over 40 in a workweek. Determining whether one or more of these “white collar” exemptions apply to a particular employee requires a fact-intensive analysis of the employee’s job duties. But there is another, sometimes overlooked, requirement: the employee must be compensated on a “salary basis” at a rate of not less than $684 per week. 29 C.F.R. § 541.600(a). An employee is paid on a salary basis if the employee regularly receives, on a weekly or less frequent basis, a predetermined amount which “is not subject to reduction because of variations in the quality or quantity of the work performed.” 29 C.F.R. § 541.602(a). Employers who make improper deductions from their employees’ salaries will lose the ability to claim that the executive, administrative, and professional exemptions apply if the facts demonstrate that they did not pay the employee on a salary basis. 29 C.F.R. § 541.603.
There has been a substantial amount of litigation regarding the types and frequency of deductions from an otherwise exempt employee’s salary that will cause an employer to lose the ability to claim that the white collar exemptions apply. One area of contention has been whether an employer’s policy stating that it will make improper deductions from an employee’s salary is sufficient to defeat exempt status, or whether there must be an actual practice of making such deductions for the employer to lose the exemption. Previously, courts followed the Secretary of Labor’s view that, if an employer’s policy created a “significant likelihood” of improper salary deductions, this could result in a loss of exempt status. Auer v. Robbins, 519 U.S. 452 (1997). But the Department of Labor has since promulgated regulations stating that the focus is on “an actual practice of making improper deductions.” 29 C.F.R. § 541.603.
Continue Reading Fifth Circuit clarifies when improper pay deductions make an employee ineligible for exemptions from overtime under the FLSA