Question: We have a salaried manager who sometimes helps out with production. Is he still exempt from overtime even though he doesn’t always work as a manager?
Answer: Maybe. Under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), managers are exempt from overtime requirements as executives if they’re paid high-enough salaries, they customarily and regularly direct the work of at least two other full-time workers, they have some influence on hiring and firing decisions, and their “primary duty” is management. Other types of white-collar workers, such as administrative and professional workers, may also be exempt from the FLSA’s overtime requirements if they meet certain criteria. But even if a manager (or any other type of “exempt” worker) is exempt from federal overtime requirements, they may not be exempt from state law overtime requirements, even for the same job.
In a recent federal district court decision in California, a shift manager at a package delivery company was considered exempt from overtime under the FLSA, but not under state law. The manager was salaried, managed dozens of employees, and had some influence in hiring and firing decisions. He engaged in some managerial tasks such as managing a delivery station, assigning routes to other workers, and leading meetings, which were part of his job description. But most of the time, he performed non-exempt work, such as unloading trucks, sorting packages, and breaking down packing materials, tasks usually done by the workers under his supervision that weren’t part of his job description. Under the FLSA, the amount of time spent on particular tasks doesn’t necessarily determine whether someone is exempt, so the court said the manager did qualify for the federal exemption. But state law required the manager to be “primarily engaged” in management work, with “primarily” meaning “more than one-half the employee’s work time,” so the court said he didn’t qualify for the state exemption (Ortiz v. Amazon, ND Cal, May 2019).