Do Your Employee’s Duties or Salary Qualify Them for a Computer Professionals Exemption?

Posted on January 30, 2018 by Rick Rossignol

You like to run your business with the best team possible and compensate them appropriately. Team members will of necessity include IT and computer professionals or those with relevant skills.

Question: are certain team members “exempt” or “nonexempt” employees according to FLSA (Fair Labor Standards Act) guidelines? Being clear about computer professionals exemptions can save you business costs.

A dilemma?”

Perhaps you have an employee who is considered your “IT pro.” This team member is paid an annual salary in excess of let’s say, $80,000.

The employee:

  • Manages and maintains your software on your company’s system
  • Does troubleshooting, repairs, upgrades, and software installs, etc.

Their special knowledge and skill are appreciated and utilized. What happens when they inform you that per their personal time records they’ve worked an amount of overtime and are therefore entitled to compensation for that unpaid overtime? Yes, in this instance they’re owed for overtime hours because of being misclassified as an exempt employee.

Keep in mind that your employee is already salaried and well-paid. Now you’ve been advised that they’re a “computer professional” who is exempt from overtime pay requirements. The reason: they do not pass the duties test required for a “programmer.”

Clearing things up

The employee in question would not meet the criteria for a Computer Professional Exemption. Unless their job description is within another FLSA exemption, they are entitled to overtime pay.

How so?

Qualifying for the computer employee exemption would require the following:

  • The employee’s compensation is by salary or a fee for service basis at a rate of not less than $455 per week (as of December 1, 2016, $913 per week). Or if they’re paid an hourly rate it cannot be less than $27.63 per hour.
  • The employee is employed as a computer systems analyst, a computer programmer, a software engineer, or another area of skill in the computer/IT field.
  • The employee’s primary duties would consist of any of the following according to Fuse Workforce Management:

1-The application of systems analysis techniques and procedures, including consulting with users, to determine hardware, software or system functional specifications;

2-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;

3-The design, documentation, testing, creation or modification of computer programs related to machine operating systems; or

4-A combination of the aforementioned duties, the performance of which requires the same level of skills.

The Department of Labor (DOL) recognizes exempt duty roles as:

  • An Executive – a supervisor of two or more employees, their primary duty is management, and they provide genuine input into employee hiring, firing, etc.
  • An Administrator – an employee whose main duties provide support to the business including human resource staff, public relations, payroll, accounting, and duties not directly related to company production.
  • A Professional – includes lawyers, physicians, teachers, architects, registered nurses, and other duties that require advanced education or industry-related training, and creative professionals such as writers, journalists, actors, and musicians.


An employee who works “with computers” should not be assumed to be exempt from FLSA coverage. They are considered non-exempt unless they invest 51% of their duties in related “programming.”

It would make sense to ask before assuming qualification:

  • Do they manage backup or archives?
  • Do they input data?
  • Do they prepare operation instructions or computer-related diagrams?
  • Do they repair or debug computer/IT equipment?
  • Do the staff a help desk?

These would not typically qualify for FLSA computer exemption.

State laws can differ on what the federal FLSA qualifications call for. Confirm compliance before making assumptions about an employee’s exempt status.

Contact us about human resources information and compliance guidelines including FLSA exemptions to improve your work environment.

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