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Is your employer stealing from you?

Not long ago, the economy was so bad, many people were just happy to have a job.  When you are just grateful to be employed, you may overlook certain things: A schedule that conflicts with your family commitments, a lower wage than you are used to making, or working outside the office on nights and weekends.

After all, most of us are eager to impress our bosses and during a fiscally challenged time, we don't want to upset the apple cart by making demands on our employers.

But is that legal? Regardless of whether you are comfortable with extra hours after you have left the office, can your boss ask you to do it without pay? Even if your boss doesn't explicitly ask it, can your company complicity encourage you to do so and not compensate you for your time?

Exempt vs. Non-exempt

The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) is a federal law that regulates whether an employee is classified as an hourly or salaried employee--and thus, whether that employee is entitled to overtime.

A company must limit hourly employees to a 40 hour work week or compensate the employee at a rate of one and a half times their normal hourly wage for any extra hours. The employee must also be paid at least the minimum wage.

A salaried employee, however, is exempt from the overtime rule. The salaried employee must be paid at least $23, 600 a year. But beyond pay, there are other considerations that delineate an exempt employee.

What are my job duties?

In addition to being paid a minimum of $23, 600 per year, an exempt employee must have certain work duties.

The exempt, salaried employee must meet three requirements: Be in a management position, oversee at least two employees, and be in a position to make determinations about the employee's status--for example, be able to hire or fire the employees, determine job duties, determine the employees schedule, etc.

If you meet those three requirements, you fall into the exempt category regardless of your job title (i.e. you do not have to have the title of "manager.")

But if your employer pays you the minimum salary and you have no supervisory roles and have no freedom to hire, fire, schedule or otherwise manage employees, your employer may be skirting its duties and actually cheating you out of money to which you are entitled. In that case, a consultation with a FLSA attorney, who can advise you on your situation, may be warranted.

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