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Q&A: Can I Reclassify Some Employees But Not Others?

Question:

With the new overtime rule set to begin 12-1, I am thinking about changing the classification of some of our employees to non-exempt and paying them overtime, while giving a few others a raise to keep them as exempt. Is that okay?

Answer: Kara, JD, SPHR, one of our HR Pros says…

The short answer is yes. All employees may be classified as non-exempt. Being classified as non-exempt is considered a benefit to the employee while being classified as exempt is considered a benefit to the employer. The Department of Labor is fine with any and all employees being classified as non-exempt.

That said, when making classification changes, keep in mind that similarly-situated employees should generally be classified the same way. It could be seen as discriminatory if Jr. Accountant John is classified as salaried exempt, giving him more flexibility and a pay increase, while Jr. Accountant Maria is reclassified as hourly non-exempt. If you’re going to split up a group of employees like this, you’ll want to make sure that you have legitimate business reasons for your decision, and that you’ve documented those reasons in your employees’ files.

Kara, JD, SPHR

Kara, JD, SPHR

Kara practiced employment law for five years before joining us, and worked in Human Resources for several years prior to that. As an attorney, she worked on many wage and hour and discrimination claims in both state and federal court. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Oregon State University and earned her law degree from Lewis and Clark Law School.

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