Exempt and non-exempt employees in US law departments

Almost all law departments have a mixture of exempt and non-exempt employees. Lawyers and law department administrators are exempt because they have management responsibility; secretaries, records clerks, receptionists, and messengers are among those who traditionally are non-exempt.

Among two groups of law department employees there can be some grey area although there are guidelines to help determine whether a paralegal works as a clerical or professional. In the TimeWarner Cable law department, according to its administrator, Paul Roy, all the paralegals are exempt because they have a fairly high level of responsibility. In other law departments, some paralegals (or legal assistants) might not be exempt. The second type of employee where there may need to be a determination is the manager of a group of non-exempt employees. The litmus test has to do with the amount and kind of their management tasks.

The major difference between exempt and non-exempt employees is that non-exempt employees must be paid overtime if they work more hours than the statutory maximum and for that reason they must keep track of their time. Overtime is typically time and a half of base pay.

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