Exempt Versus Non-Exempt: Special Classification Rules for Georgia Nurses

Exempt V Nonexempt – Vaughn

The US Fair Labor Standards Act includes many employment-related provisions that affect nurses, especially requirements establishing minimum wage, overtime, recordkeeping, and many other issues. However, the application of these regulations depends on the details of your employment, so the protections don’t extend to everyone in the nursing profession. The primary distinction is whether you’re considered an exempt or nonexempt employee, a difference that’s critical for several salary-related reasons. As you might expect, many employers have their own reasons to classify a nurse as one or the other, since it impacts their bottom line.

You should discuss your situation with a Georgia wage and hour attorney if you have concerns, but you can read on for some basics regarding overtime for nurses.

Default Rules Regarding Overtime for Nursing Professionals: Though the state has not enacted its own regulations on wage and hour laws, the Georgia Department of Labor follows FLSA regulations. These rules require all employers to pay minimum wage at the rate of $7.25 per hour, and they must pay overtime when an employee works in excess of 40 hours in a work week.

The exception is that companies do NOT need to pay overtime to a worker who is considered “exempt,” as defined by the regulations. Therefore, your right overtime pay depends upon you having status as a nonexempt employee.

Defining Exempt and Nonexempt Nurses: Workers may be classified based upon different factors, but the one that pertains specifically to nurses involves the term “learned professional.” You may be characterized as exempt – and therefore, NOT entitled to overtime – if:

  1. You make at least $455 per week, or the equivalent of $23,660 per year;
  2. Your work duties require advanced knowledge, typically requiring proper exercise of judgment in performing them; and,
  3. Your advanced knowledge is in a field of science and you acquired it through extensive, specialized instruction – both of which are true for nursing professionals.

You may be considered nonexempt if you’re a nurse who doesn’t meet each of these requirements. Thus, you should receive overtime pay for working more than 40 hours a week.

New Overtime Rules Affect Non-Exempt Employees in Nursing: With respect to factor #1 above, you should note some upcoming changes that take effect January 2020. The US Department of Labor announced an increase in the salary level from $455 to $684 per week, which is $35,568 annually. If the only aspect of your employment that prevents you from earning overtime is your salary, you may soon be eligible to make 1.5 times your normal wage for working more than 40 hours per week.

Consult with a Georgia Wage and Hour Lawyer About Your Rights

If you believe your employer has misclassified you as an exempt nurse, it’s essential to retain experienced legal counsel to assist with enforcing your rights. Our employment law attorneys at the Vaughn Law Firm are prepared to take on employers who violate wage and hour regulations, so please contact our Decatur, GA office today to set up a free consultation.  With decades of combined experience serving clients in DeKalb County, Fulton County, and Cobb County, our team has developed proven strategies for protecting your interests.