August 26, 2008
Discretion and Independent Judgment Under the Fair Labor Standards Act
Filed under: News
Vision Payroll

Under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), employees must be paid a minimum hourly wage and an overtime premium of one and one-half times the regular rate of pay for hours worked in excess of forty per week. This is the one of a continuing series that discusses FLSA exemptions. The administrative exemption allows employees who qualify as “administrative employees” to be exempted from both minimum wage and overtime requirements. An earlier post discussed that to qualify for the administrative exemption, an employee must “exercise…discretion and independent judgment” in significant matters. Discretion and independent judgment involve “the comparison and the evaluation of possible courses of conduct, and acting or making a decision after” considering various possibilities. Some factors are “whether the employee has authority to formulate, affect, interpret, or implement management policies or operating practices; whether the employee carries out major assignments in conducting the operations of the business; whether the employee performs work that affects business operations to a substantial degree, even if the employee’s assignments are related to operation of a particular segment of the business; whether the employee has authority to commit the employer in matters that have significant financial impact; whether the employee has authority to waive or deviate from established policies and procedures without prior approval; whether the employee has authority to negotiate and bind the company on significant matters; whether the employee provides consultation or expert advice to management; whether the employee is involved in planning long- or short-term business objectives; whether the employee investigates and resolves matters of significance on behalf of management; and whether the employee represents the company in handling complaints, arbitrating disputes or resolving grievances.” The regulations specifically state that other factors may also be considered in making the determination. Discretion and independent judgment generally require an employee to make decisions “free from immediate direction or supervision.” The decisions may, however, be reviewed by upper-level personnel or not followed at all. Neither means that the employee did not exercise discretion and independent judgment. The fact that several employees may perform similar work or work of the same level of importance is not necessarily enough to disqualify the work from requiring discretion and independent judgment. Types of work that do not require discretion and independent judgment “include clerical or secretarial work, recording or tabulating data, or performing other mechanical, repetitive, recurrent or routine work.” The fact that an employer may suffer “financial losses” if an employee fails to properly perform a job does not necessarily mean that an employee who performs that job exercises discretion and independent judgment. State laws may provide rules that are more beneficial to the employee and must be followed. Contact Vision Payroll if you have questions about the administrative exemption.


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