Executive Assistants exempt or non-exempt

Every couple of years, the VP over the administrative assistants for the executives wants us to re-visit their exemption status.  The one admin supports the CEO and is a "door" that everyone must get through to get to him.  She handles the Board presentation compilations, etc.  We sought a degreed individual for this position. The other admin basically does calendaring and travel arrangements.  Nothing real high level.  She has access to confidential information.  She is not degreed, but has been an exec admin for probably 10 years. 

 What does anyone think - exec admins - should they be exempt?

 Has anyone used the DOL to advise on these types of situations or did this cause a potential concern for an audit?


Thanks in advance!


  • 4 Comments sorted by Votes Date Added
  • We have one Exec Assistant but she isn't very high-level.  She is hourly non-exempt.  We had a consutant come in and advise us on the exempt vs non-exempt, and he said the Exec Asst was non-exempt.
  • According to the federal overtime regulations that went into effect in 2004, executive assistants to a busines owner or senior executive of a large business are exempt if the employee without specific instructions or prescribed procedures has been delegated authority regarding matters of significance.

     Work directly related to management or general business operations of the employer or the employer's customers, as required by the administrative exemption, includes activities directly relating to assisting with the running or servicing of a business as distinguished from production or, in a retail or service establishment, sales work. Work considered to be directly related to management or general business operations includes work in functional areas such as finance, auditing, budgeting, purchasing, advertising, personnel management, quality control, legal and regulatory compliance, and health and safety. This requirement limits the administrative exemption to individuals whose work is of substantial importance to the management or operation of the business of the employer or the employer's customers.

     The exercise of discretion and independent judgment, as required by the administrative exemption, is often confused with the use of skill in applying techniques, procedures, or specific standards and with making decisions on matters of little consequence. An employee who merely applies his or her knowledge in following prescribed procedures, determining which procedure to follow, or determining whether specified standards are met is not exercising discretion and independent judgment. For example, a quality control inspector is generally engaged in applying predetermined standards rather than using discretion and independent judgment.

  • I agree with what Ruth has said.  This is a difficult and dangerous area if handled incorrectly.
  • From a pragmatic standpoint, it's never wrong to pay someone on an hourly basis.  If your EAs don't generally work more than 40 hours, then you can pay them on an hourly basis at no economic cost and no future FLSA risk.  I would be hesitant to designate someone as a salaried individual on the basis of their work as a "gatekeeper" to an executive's calendar/face time.  Posession of a degree is immaterial.  It's really about the exercise of discretion in matters of significance and I don't think gatekeeping rises to that level.  Because job titles are not indicative of job duties, and job duties are the real determinant of exemptability, I wouldn't rely on job title listings in the federal register to guide you.

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