By Milite, George
Supervisory Management , Vol. 38, No. 8
You"re a supervisor who needs to take an afternoon off to run some errands.
You don't want to use your vacation time or half a personal day - so you ask your employer if you can take the time off without pay. The employer says yes, and everything's fine. Or so you think. According to labor laws currently on the books, if you're an exempt (salaried) employee, your employer can't give you that half day off because it makes you technically non-exempt. That means if you work more than 40 hours a week, you have to be paid time-and-a-half. (Oddly enough, this isn't a problem for exempt employees who take full days off without pay-but how many people want to do that?)
It doesn't matter whether you've used up all your paid time - nor does not matter whether you don't mind taking a few hours Without pay. The law is there to protect you, and protect you it will. Other things your company can't do include letting staffers accumulate timeoff instead of overtime pay, allowing non-exempt workers to volunteer' extra hours, and being lax with employee classification of exempt and nonexempt.
Although most states have their own labor laws, the basic definitions of "exempt" and "nonexempt" go back to the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938. This law was designed to protect hourly wage-earners from being unduly overworked; it also outlawed child labor.
Salaried workers were considered, exempt from the law because ostensibly their salaries were high enough to accommodate overtime ,hours when necessary. Non-exempt workers, who made less money and who were more likely to have to work long hours, now knew that at least they would be fairly compensated for their overtime.
Being salaried alone doesn't make an employee exempt. The job itself has to meet certain requirements. For example, an exempt position is supposed to reflect a higher degree of autonomy for the worker than a nonexempt job (more responsible, more money, etc.).
The problem with the rules defining these terms is that what worked in 1938 doesn't necessarily work today. Today's workers desire a more flexible workplace, and today's employers desire more flexible workers. Companies are afraid to hire (or rehire) full-time staffers because of the enormous expense not just of salaries but of benefits. …