Misclassification can affect employees as well as contractors

Worker misclassification is an area of employment law that has received a great deal of media attention in recent months, due in large part to highly publicized controversies involving the ride-sharing company Uber. Those controversies often center on claims from Uber drivers that they have been inaccurately and illegally misclassified as independent contractors rather than employees, which they argue deprives them of important benefits, pay and legal protections.

However those claims play out in the long run, they have had the positive side effect of generating conversation and raising awareness about employee misclassification issues among business owners and workers alike. However, what those conversations often leave out is the fact that independent contractors are not the only group of workers at risk of being misclassified at work. Another type of misclassification, which is also harmful to workers, involves the distinction between exempt and non-exempt employees.

Non-exempt employees

A non-exempt employee a worker who is covered by the federal minimum wage and overtime requirements set forth in the Fair Labor Standards Act, or FLSA. Under the FLSA, workers must be paid a federal minimum wage of at least $7.25 per hour; however, Florida law establishes a higher minimum wage for most workers in the state, entitling most non-exempt workers to a minimum of $8.05 per hour.

The FLSA also provides that non-exempt employees are entitled to overtime pay of at least one and a half times their normal hourly rate for any time worked beyond 40 hours in a single week. When workers are misclassified as exempt rather than non-exempt employees - in other words, when they are improperly paid a salary instead of an hourly wage - they may be deprived of the full pay they rightfully deserve. However, it is important to be aware that not every salaried employee is misclassified.

Exempt employees

An exempt employee is a worker who is not covered by the minimum wage and overtime requirements of the FLSA. In most cases, exempt employees receive an annual salary. Sometimes this designation is appropriate, but only if certain job conditions are met.

As a baseline matter, a properly exempt employee must be paid at least $455 per week according to current law. However, anticipated changes from the U.S. Department of Labor could raise that minimum to $970 per week in 2016. In addition to the minimum salary requirement, an exempt employee's job duties must fall into one of the following three categories:

  • Executive: Workers primarily involved in the management, supervision, hiring and firing of other employees.
  • Professional: Teachers, physicians, registered nurses and others whose jobs require specialized education and independent judgment.
  • Administrative: Non-manual workers whose job duties directly relate to the business or its customers and require independent judgment on matters of significance. (Simple secretarial or clerical work is not sufficient to qualify for this exemption.)

If your boss has misclassified you, whether as an exempt employee or as an independent contractor, you may be entitled to back pay, unpaid overtime and other types of monetary compensation. Contact the Law Office of William M. Julien, P.A., to discuss the circumstances of your case and learn about the legal options available to you.