How to Classify Exempt vs. Nonexempt Employees

In any organization, a diverse workforce encompasses various employee types. Within the complex landscape of employment and labor laws, the classification of employees into either exempt or nonexempt categories holds significant importance.

This classification is pivotal as it dictates employees’ eligibility for overtime pay and defines their array of legal rights and responsibilities. The distinct categorization not only aids companies in aligning with labor and tax regulations but also empowers employees by delineating their entitlements.

In this blog, we will understand how to classify employees in exempt and nonexempt employees.

Related Webinars
Calculating Overtime under the Fair Labor Standards Act
Speaker: Susan Fahey Desmond
Learn More
Calculating Overtime under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA)
Speaker: Susan Fahey Desmond
Learn More
Exempt or Non-Exempt Employee?
Speaker: Janette Levey Frisch
Learn More

Knowledge of FLSA

To effectively distinguish between exempt and non-exempt employees, a solid grasp of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) is essential. The FLSA is a federal law that establishes the minimum wage and overtime requirements for workers in the United States. This pivotal legislation was enacted on June 25, 1938, by the 75th United States Congress and was subsequently signed into law by President Franklin D. Roosevelt. In addition to minimum wage and overtime compensation, it also addresses recordkeeping and child labor regulations.

In accordance with the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), the majority of employees are categorized as either exempt or nonexempt. Exempt employees do not qualify to receive overtime pay. Conversely, non-exempt employees are entitled to receive overtime compensation for any additional hours worked beyond a standard 40-hour workweek. 

To Classify Employees as Exempt or Nonexempt, You Need to Evaluate Their Duties, Salary, and Salary Threshold.


Determining if an employee is exempt is straightforward. You just need to assess their duties and see if they fit into the categories listed below. If the answer is yes, they are considered exempt.

  • Executive Employees: They are the leaders with a clear vision in every company, steering it toward success and expansion. Their role involves making important strategic choices, overseeing teams, and ensuring the company’s mission is achieved. These individuals often establish the workplace atmosphere, showing leadership qualities that motivate and influence their colleagues.
  • Administrative Employees: These employees operate in the background, orchestrating the company’s operations and ensuring its seamless functioning. They take charge of vital administrative duties that are the lifeblood of a well-run business. Their responsibilities often encompass tasks such as meticulous record-keeping, implementing policies, and overseeing crucial processes.
  • Professional Employees: These individuals are the embodiment of expertise, possessing specialized skills honed over years of dedicated education, training, and practical experience. They serve as the driving force behind innovation and excellence in diverse fields such as accounting, coding, law, medicine, engineering, and the creative arts. Professional employees are committed to continual growth and frequently hold licenses or certifications that attest to their mastery in their specific domains.

If any employee does not have the duties mentioned above then they fall under the nonexempt category.

Employee Salary

If an employee receives a predetermined and fixed salary that remains constant regardless of the quantity or quality of their work, it means their salary does not fluctuate based on the amount of work they do or the quality of their performance. In other words, no matter how much they work or the level of their work quality, their salary remains the same without any deductions.

If an employee’s salary is not fixed and is subject to change based on the quantity and quality of work they have done, then they fall under the nonexempt category.

Salary Threshold

The salary threshold for exempt employees, as defined by the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), increased to $1,059 per week, equivalent to $55,000 annually, starting on January 1, 2023. This means that employees earning $55,000 or more annually are classified as exempt employees. 

If employees earn less than $1,059 per week or $55,000 annually, they fall under the nonexempt category, which means they must be paid overtime for any hours worked over 40 in a workweek.

If you are unsure whether an employee is exempt or nonexempt, it is recommended to seek guidance from an attorney or experienced and skilled human resources professional. 

Exempt employees are not entitled to receive overtime pay, and their legal rights differ significantly from those of nonexempt employees. This distinction arises because exempt employees primarily engage in intellectual work, receive a fixed salary regardless of workload, and wield special rights and powers within an organization, including making significant company decisions and handling hiring and firing processes. Exempt employees often have legal rights related to confidentiality and decision-making authority.

In contrast, nonexempt employees receive their salary on either a weekly or monthly basis, which is subject to change based on the quantity and quality of their work. Additionally, if nonexempt employees work overtime, they are entitled to receive overtime pay for any hours worked beyond the standard 40-hour workweek. Nonexempt employees have legal rights related to minimum wage, overtime compensation, and other protections under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) to ensure fair working conditions.


Classifying employees as exempt or nonexempt is a critical aspect of compliance with labor laws and ensures employees’ fair treatment. Understanding the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and evaluating employee duties, salaries, and the salary threshold are essential steps in this process. Exempt employees, often engaged in intellectual work, receive fixed salaries and hold specific organizational powers. On the other hand, nonexempt employees receive variable salaries based on their work quantity and quality, and they are entitled to overtime pay. Seeking professional guidance when unsure of an employee’s classification is wise, as it helps maintain legal compliance and fairness in the workplace.

Stay Updated

Don’t miss any latest payroll update
Share Now

About Us

At Payroll Pro Guide, we’re dedicated to offering top-quality payroll insights, news, and blogs to enhance your expertise.

Recent Posts


Don’t miss....

Any latest payroll update

confirm your email

Your signup is almost complete! Please check your email for a confirmation message.
Grab our FREE

e-Books on Payroll Management