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Question of misclassification at heart of wage and hour complaint

One of the biggest challenges for Georgia employers is whether to classify an employee as exempt or non-exempt. Non-exempt workers (those paid an hourly wage) are entitled to overtime pay and mandatory meal and rest breaks, but exempt employees (those paid a set salary) are not. This issue is at the heart of a wage and hour complaint filed against a cosmetics retailer on the west coast.

A woman who was employed as a "specialist" at one of the company's locations claims that she was misclassified as an exempt worker, which means she was not entitled to breaks and overtime pay. As proof that specialists are misclassified, she points to the job description for the position, which are allegedly systematic tasks. She also claims that she was not given the ability to exercise her own judgment in the performance of her duties.

California-based Sephora U.S.A., Inc., however, states that specialists do have set tasks, but the performance of those duties requires the regular use of independent judgment and discretion. The job description referred to by the employee in question outlines that specialists are primarily responsible for supervising and disciplining sales associates, consultants and sales leads, along with other human resource functions. Specialists also act as managers in the absence of the store's director.

Like this company, anytime a Georgia company classifies a worker as exempt, the potential for facing a wage and hour complaint exists. In making such a classification, it is important to outline the duties of the position as clearly as possible. Further, an assessment of the day-to-day tasks of an exempt employee could help ascertain whether the employee is correctly classified. Finally, understanding how both state and federal law define what constitutes an exempt employee vs. a non-exempt employee could help avoid litigation in the future.

Source: hr.blr.com, "Wage and hour: Cosmetic giant brushes up against class action lawsuit", Michael Futterman and Jaime Touchstone, April 21, 2015

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