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Are You Entitled to Overtime Pay?

Are You Entitled to Overtime Pay?

The right to a fair day’s wage for a fair day’s work and the right to a reasonable work-life balance are two of the most important worker rights in Illinois. The overtime rule covers both these areas. It increases pay according to the number of hours worked, and also compensates employees for lost personal time.

Most workers are eligible for overtime, and if a new Department of Labor proposal goes through, that number may go up even more.

However, executive and exempt employees are not entitled to overtime. Employers often like to find loopholes where there are none, and play fast and loose with labor laws. Yet almost ever since the Fair Labor Standards Act became law in the 1930s, the rules have been clear. 

Sometimes, some intervention from a Chicago employment lawyer is necessary. A simple demand letter usually takes care of the problem, though more aggressive measures are available if they are needed.

Executive Employees

Most supervisors are not executives. Additionally, not all executives are overtime-exempt. In addition to an appropriate title, the executive must have all four of the following job duties:

  • Salary Level: Exempt executives must earn at least $455 a week, or $23,660 a year. The proposed DOL rule would move that level up to $679 a week, or $35,308 a year. Note that only salaried executives are exempt. That status excludes people like sales managers and shift managers, even if they fit the other three requirements.
  • Supervisor: Exempt executives must actively direct the work of two or more people most days of the week. Theoretical power over workers does not count, and guidance does not count either. Exempt executives must tell people what to do, and they must be obliged to do it.
  • Management: Exempt executives cannot perform any revenue-producing work, or at least they cannot perform very much. The worker’s primary job must be enterprise management, as opposed to division management.
  • Hiring and Firing Authority: Generally, this power must be exclusive. Many executives only have the power to make binding recommendations in this area. That is a subtle difference, but it is enough of a difference to matter in this context.

Despite the low salary threshold, even if the new proposal takes effect, only C-level executives and Vice Presidents generally qualify for the executive exemption.

Overtime Exceptions

The professional exception is probably the most common non-executive overtime loophole. Anyone with a college degree may be a professional, and anyone with an advanced degree is almost certainly a professional. The extra knowledge alone is sufficient in this context. For example, lawyers who do not exercise any professional judgment (i.e. a document review) are still lawyers and not entitled to overtime, at least in most cases.

Human resources professionals, marketers, insurance agents, office managers, and many other “white collar” workers are usually administrative workers for FLSA overtime purposes. These individuals exercise their own judgment and discretion when they perform non-manual labor which is directly related, in some way, to business operations.

Outside salespeople are also not entitled to overtime. Not very many workers spend most of the day away from the office making sales calls.

Contact an Experienced Lawyer

Very few workers fall under an overtime exemption. For a free consultation with an experienced Chicago employment lawyer, contact the Law Office of Mitchell A. Kline. We routinely handle matters in Cook County and nearby jurisdictions.


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