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A Computer Tech Workers Guide To Overtime

Some workers aren’t entitled to overtime pay or the minimum wage. Federal law even has a specific exemption for “computer employees.”

But thousands of employers are misusing the exemption, and stealing millions from their workers.

  • Just because you’re salaried doesn’t mean you’re not entitled to overtime pay.
  • Your job title doesn’t matter; it’s all about what you do.
  • Workers who manufacture or repair hardware are almost always entitled to overtime.

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Workers in information technology (IT), information services (IS) and other computer-related fields are often highly-skilled. Many computer employees are also paid on a salary basis.

Most are told that they don’t qualify for overtime.

But that’s not true. In fact, computer techs, IT support specialists and even some software engineers are routinely misclassified as exempt from the Fair Labor Standards Act’s wage and hour protections.

That means you may be losing out on weeks, months or years of overtime pay that you’re entitled to.

3 Common Overtime Misconceptions For Computer Workers

If your job is covered by the FLSA, you’re entitled to overtime wages at one-and-a-half times your regular rate of pay.

But federal law can be arcane, and it can be hard to know whether or not you’re properly classified. Here are three major wage and hour violations that employers in the computer field are often guilty of committing.

1. Salaries Don’t Mean You’re Always Exempt

This is a very common misconception, that salaried workers by definition don’t get overtime.

Many IT specialists and other computer techs are told that they don’t qualify for overtime because they aren’t paid on an hourly basis.

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But for the FLSA, it matters more what you do in your job, and less how you’re paid.

2. Job Titles Don’t Matter

Your title at work is irrelevant to the Fair Labor Standards Act. While there is an exemption under the federal law for “learned professionals,” most computer techs won’t fit the bill.

To be a learned professional, you have to make at least $455 per week on a salaried basis. After that, the exemption is a matter of performing work that requires advanced knowledge in your field. But that work has to be “predominantly intellectual” in nature; you have to exercise real independent judgment, understanding problems and crafting innovative solutions to be a “learned professional.”

For computer workers, an advanced degree isn’t required to be considered an exempt “professional.”

If you perform routine work or follow a manual, you’re probably entitled to overtime wages. Here’s an incomplete list of tasks that many computer employees who are legally entitled to overtime wages perform:

  • Configuring computers and applications
  • Troubleshooting hardware, software and network problems
  • Installing hardware and software
  • Upgrading hardware and software
  • Installing and upgrading telecom systems

People who repair or manufacture computer hardware are almost always entitled to overtime pay.

3. The Computer Employee Exemption Is Narrow

Recent years have seen the Department of Labor attempt to address the rise in computer industry jobs. In part, this means that the Fair Labor Standards Act now has an explicit overtime exemption for “computer employees.”

Here’s how to find out if you fall under the exemption:

  1. You make a salary of at least $455 per week, or an hourly wage no less than $27.63 per week
  2. You perform the duties of a computer systems analyst, computer programmer, software engineer or “other similarly skilled worker in the computer field”

Again the duties are more important than the title. You may be exempt, and thus not entitled to overtime wages, if your primary duties include:

  • “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, including prototypes, 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 [those] duties, the performance of which requires the same level of skills.”

These specific requirements were adopted in part to account for the many highly-skilled computer workers who never went to college. In other industries, “learned professionals” are partially defined by having acquired advanced degrees in their field of employment.

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