U.S. Department of Labor Opinion Finds IT Support Specialist Not Exempt from FLSA’s Requirements

Posted on December 18, 2006

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The U.S. Department of Labor has issued an opinion letter (FLSA 2006-42, dated October 26, 2006) addressing the issue of whether an employee who provides computer help desk support is exempt from the minimum wage and overtime requirements of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). In the opinion letter, the DOL stated that, based upon the information provided by the employer requesting the opinion, the position does not qualify for the administrative or computer employee exemption. In this case, the employer requested guidance regarding whether the position of "IT Support Specialist" would be exempt under either the administrative or computer employee exemption. According to the employer’s description of the position, the IT Support Specialist (formerly called "Help Desk Support Specialist" by the employer) is responsible for diagnosis of computer-related problems as requested by employees and contractors of the employer. The position conducts problem analysis and research, troubleshoots and resolves complex problems. The job requires a high school diploma or GED, although an associate degree is preferred.

Administrative Employee Exemption: An employee meets the administrative exemption if he/she is compensated on a salary or fee basis of at least $455 per week, and has as his/her primary duty, the performance of either office or non-manual work directly related to the management or general business operations of the employer. Also, the employee’s primary duty must include the exercise of discretion and independent judgment with regard to matters of significance. In this case, the DOL found that the IT Support Specialist’s duties of maintaining a computer system and testing to see that a particular piece of equipment or application is working properly according to specifications designed by others lacks the required exercise of independent judgment and discretion to qualify for the administrative employee exemption.

Computer Employee Exemption: Under the FLSA, computer systems analysts, computer programmers, software engineers, and other similarly skilled workers in the computer field who meet certain tests regarding their job duties are eligible for the computer employee exemption. To qualify for the exemption, the employee must be paid on either a salary or fee basis of not less than $455 per week, or if paid on an hourly basis, not less than $27.63 per hour. Additionally, this exemption only applies to employees whose primary duties consist of the application of systems analysis techniques and procedures, including consulting with users to determine hardware, software or system functional specifications; the design, development, documentation, analysis, creation, testing or modification of computer systems or programs based on and related to user or system design specifications; the design, documentation, testing, creation or modification of computer programs related to machine operating systems; or a combination of these duties. Examples of employees who qualify for these duties include computer systems analysts, computer programmers, software engineers, and other similarly skilled workers. However, job title alone does not determine the employee’s exempt status.

In this case, the DOL found that the IT Support Specialist position did not qualify for the computer employee exemption because the job’s primary duties of installing, configuring, testing, and troubleshooting computer applications, networks and hardware did not involve the application of systems analysis techniques and procedures to determine hardware, software or system functional specifications. The DOL also found that the position did not involve the design, development, documentation, analysis, creation, testing or modification of computer systems or programs related to user or system design specifications. Accordingly, the position did not qualify for the computer employee exemption.

Although DOL opinion letters are not binding and are based upon the specific facts presented, the guidance provided is useful because it demonstrates the factors the DOL considers in determining whether jobs involving computer-related duties will be considered exempt.

Link to DOL Fact Sheet #17C: Exemption for Administrative Employees Under the FLSA

Link to DOL Fact Sheet #17E: Exemption for Employees in Computer-Related Occupations Under the FLSA

N. DeWayne Pope, DeWayne Pope LLC

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