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What does it mean to be a salaried employee?

Q: I accepted a job, which is salaried, so I don't get paid for any overtime. I accepted the job (out of financial necessity) at a lower rate than I normally would have accepted. After a year of working there, my initial impression of being on salary is very different from what the reality is. If I have to leave a half-hour early or late I am docked, but I work about 3-7 hours of OT each week. If a meeting comes up before or after work, I am required to go, and it can take anywhere from 1 to 3 hours. I have addressed some of the issues with my manager, but have not received a response. Any suggestions for how to approach this at my annual review so that I can request a proper salary increase? Or perhaps some guidance for a more realistic view of being a salaried employee?

A: An annual review is an opportunity to reflect on your accomplishments during the past year and to set some mutually agreed upon goals for the coming year. If you showcase your contributions to the company, this should help you earn the highest raise that your company is now able to provide, and bring you closer to your desired salary level. Resist complaining the whole time about your salary and the lack of overtime. In fact, before you even mention your concerns, you need to understand a bit more about the two main types of salaried employees and the complex regulations that govern overtime.

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Many employers assume incorrectly that salaried employees are exempt from earning overtime pay, but that’s not always true. Let me explain. Only white-collar employees who meet the following three-part overtime exemption test are ineligible to receive overtime pay:

1. The worker’s primary job responsibilities are executive, administrative or managerial in nature;
2. The employee is paid a guaranteed fixed salary, regardless of variations in hours worked;
3. The employee’s salary level is at least $455/week or the equivalent
says Dan Field, a partner with Morgan, Brown & Joy, LLP.

If your job meets all three criteria of the overtime exemption test, your employer does have the right to require you to attend – without additional pay - meetings that occur outside of regular business hours. Also, your employer should not be docking your pay if you come in late or leave early. (“Docking” does not mean deductions from your bank of paid time off - e.g., personal, vacation, and/or sick time.)

If, on the other hand, your job fails to meet all three of the criteria above, your employer must pay you time-and-a-half (overtime) for any hours you work in excess of 40 hours in a given week. In addition, your employer may dock you if you come in late or leave work early.

If your employer denies you overtime while simultaneously docking you for schedule variations, you may want to contact an employment attorney or the Attorney General’s Fair Labor Division Hotline, at 617-727-3465, to file a complaint.


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