I Work With Computers: Am I Entitled to Overtime Pay?

A frequently litigated employment law issue is whether computer professionals are entitled to overtime pay (at the rate of one and half times their regular rate) for all hours over 40 hours in a workweek. This issue is confronted often by overtime attorneys. In the current economy, information technology professionals typically work long hours, are called upon in emergency situations, and are seldom praised for their good work. And they do not always receive legally required pay.

The Fair Labor Standards Act generally requires all workers to be paid overtime pay, subject to certain exemptions. One of those exemption is the computer employee exemption. That exemption states that a computer employee is exempt from overtime pay if the following tests are met: (1) the employee must be compensated either on a salary basis or a fee basis at a rate not less than $455 per week, or if compensated on an hourly basis, at a rate not less than $27.63 an hour; (2) the employee must be employed as a computer systems analyst, computer programmer, software engineer or other skilled worker in the computer field; and (3) the worker's primary duty must consist of: (a) the application of systems analysis techniques and procedures, including consultation with users, to determine hardware, software or system functional specifications; (b) 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; (c) the design, documentation, analysis, creation, testing or modification of computer programs related to machine operating systems; or (d) a combination of the duties above, the performance of which requires the same level of skills.

The computer employee exemption does not encompass workers who are involved in the manufacture or repair of computer hardware and related equipment. Employees whose job is highly dependent upon, or faciliated by, the use of computers and computer software programs (engineers, for example), but who are not primarily engaged in computer systems analysis and programming or other similar skilled computer-related occupations identified above, are also not exempt under the computer employee exemption.

Ultimately, the computer employee exemption is much more narrow in its coverage than employers would like to believe. And most importantly, the U.S. Department of Labor issued an opinion letter stating that IT support specialists (who are often known as the "help desk" at larger companies) are not exempt under the computer employee exemption or the administrative exemption, and therefore, are entitled to overtime pay. According to the DOL, IT support specialists' duties don't engage in computer programming and other functions identified in the computer employee exemption. Likewise, they are not considered exempt administrative employees because their primary duty does not include the exercise of discretion and independent judgment with respect to matters of significance.

Given the expansion of technology in recent years, the economy contains many different computer-related jobs. The analysis of whether a particular computer-related job is exempt from overtime pay is complicated, individualized, and best performed with the assistance of a competent wage and hour attorney.

If you believe you may have been misclassified as exempt from overtime pay and need counsel to help you recover legally mandated overtime pay, or if you wish to better understand your rights, you should contact a St. Louis overtime attorney.