Being an Exempt Employee is a Scam
This post is a total rant but I'm sure plenty of you can feel me on this one. Ready? Okay? Being an exempt employee is a total SCAM! Yes, I said it. It's a scam. Like the kind Joanne the Scammer pulls on you. Man, that felt good to say.
So, what is being an exempt employee? It's an employee who does not receive overtime pay because... we are exempt from overtime. Technically exempt from the provisions set in the Fair Labor Standards Act which requires overtime pay to non-exempt or hourly employees. *Insert side eye emoji here* You may also hear this employee status called a salaried employee. If you have yet to reach the level of exempt employee don't worry its coming. As you climb up the corporate ladder your role will probably fall into this scope at some point in your career. Don't be in such a rush thought. It's not all roses and unicorns.
There are a few different reasons why your position could be exempt. For example, those who work in outside sales are most likely exempt. It requires you to spend time outside of the office and take meetings that will most likely take place at all different times of the day. This would be very unlikely to complete under the constraints of a traditional work schedule. If you are a manager who oversees two or more employees you are most likely an exempt employee as well.
Outside of your typical duties you'll most likely spend late nights working on employee reviews or working on business development duties outside of the office. Usually a job description will tell you the status of the job during the application. Also, when you receive the job offer you'll know if the position you're taking is exempt or non exempt beforehand. Just know that when you take the offer for an exempt position it doesn't exactly mean 8:00am to 5:00pm, Monday through Friday. You'll have to decide if you are willing to give this thug life a try.
We typically are required to work a 40 hour week like others and we get lunch breaks too but the difference is we are task oriented rather than time restricted. Exempt means we are required to work as many hours as it takes to get the tasks done. If that report is due tomorrow at 9:00am and its currently 4:00pm, guess who's probably working past 5:00pm to have it on their boss' desk by morning? This girl right here! Okay, I'm being dramatic but for the most part that's how it works.
Now, that you know what being a salary employee is let's talk about the scam it is. Although you are required to work as long as it takes to complete the task, if you find that you are finished beforehand that does not mean you can get up and walk out early. Nope, you can't. You are still required to work the full day so make yourself busy and find something else to do. If you do leave early that will cost you some PTO time because salary employees are not allowed to have their pay docked for missing hours. So, you'll be cutting into that personal time you planned to take next month. Exempt employees must receive the same base salary for each pay which is probably one of the better things associated with being an exempt employee. I don't have to think about how much my pay may or may not be when my direct deposit hits. *Money dance* This is what is unfair to me though. If we are required to give as much time as needed to achieve a goal or outcome, if we finish early why can't we keep our time? This is where we need some give and take.
This status often leaves exempt employees feeling overwhelmed and underpaid during peak seasons or when deadlines are coming due. This last season I went through at work had me out working every single weekend from the end of April until Memorial Day weekend in May. That was a lot on me mentally and physically. I often felt that I could not function or focus some days but the work had to be done. It wasn't just weekends it was also late nights and I believe this was a huge reason I was ill a couple weeks ago. My body just shut down on me literally. It told me, "I can'ttttttttt." You see I couldn't even keep up with TYP. It was just too much to do at work.
Here's the thing. If your manager or supervisor is not allowing you to take care of yourself or you are not allowing yourself a moment to take care of yourself then you will surely burn out by overworking yourself. You have to remember to take your lunch breaks, ask to leave early when you feel overwhelmed and ask if you can have comp time or compensation time. Some companies are okay with comp time and some keep things hush, hush. It essentially means you can take a few hours off at a later time if you, "worked overtime," or outside of the required 40 hours. For example, if you worked on a Saturday you could use comp time to take off that following Monday or maybe even the day before. If you didn't you'd be working a 6 day week. I need my rest time.
Now, don't get me wrong. Exempt employment can come with some perks as well. You are most likely not micro-managed, you get to be responsible for yourself and you're not typically tied to a desk at all times. The latter being my favorite part. If I find that I need some time outside of the office I have the capability of scheduling a training class for myself or a meeting with a partner. All productive tasks and relatable to work but I have the choice of doing what I want for the moment. This moment of freedom kind of makes it all worth it when I'm complaining about the late nights without the extra pay. So in reality, while I still think whoever made this concept is a scam artist I'm not mad at the perks I get. I calmed myself down from that rant quickly...
I almost had a mental breakdown during this busy season but I made it through. Next time I'll be mindful about taking care of myself mentally and physically so I don't feel so worn out. I think that is key when you are working over time and being paid or overtime without extra pay. It all comes down to balance and I swear to not let being a salaried employee almost push me over to the edge in the future. I got this...
See you at the top,
The Young Professionalist