iStock_000004431244XSmall.jpgQ. Our employees consider themselves “professionals” and don’t want to be treated as hourly workers. If our employees agree to it, can we still treat them as “exempt” even if they don’t meet all of the requirements under the FLSA or state law? 

A. In a word, no. This question comes up more often than you might think. In some cases, particular industries have developed a practice of treating certain categories of employees as “salaried” and assuming that they are exempt. In others, employees would simply rather be “salaried” or “exempt” because this suggests a higher status than an “hourly” position, or because they prefer not to have to track their time. 

Unfortunately for employers, an employee’s choice generally had nothing to do with whether or not the employee can legitimately be classified as “exempt” from overtime requirements under state and federal law. With very few exceptions, the rights provided by the Fair Labor Standards Act and its state equivalents can’t be waived or modified by an agreement with the employee. 

So how can employers manage employee expectations without running afoul of the law? 

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