Bookkeepers, accounting clerks and accountants may be eligible for overtime

Bookkeepers, accounting clerks and accountants are sometimes misclassified under the administrative exemption and have wage dispute claims. While these jobs may sometimes involve administrative duties, the exemption requires specifics not often met by these job roles. To be exempt under the administrative exemption, your primary job must be directly linked to the management of the business operations, and you must be able to work with discretion and “independent judgement” when dealing with certain matters. Bookkeepers and accounting clerks would rarely meet the criteria for working with great discretion in their work, because they continue to follow strict rules laid out by the company.

Bookkeepers and accounting clerks may maintain inventory records, check figures for mathematical accuracy, code documents in compliance with company procedures, report discrepancies in records, and basically record, store, analyze and report information complying with the federal, state, or company policies or regulations. This last piece of information is essential, because it shows that accounting clerks and bookkeepers cannot work with independent judgement, because a primary part of their job requires maintaining and following a policy.

Therefore, to classify a bookkeeper or accounting clerk under the administrative exemption, and prevent them from receiving overtime pay, is in error.

If your employer has listed you as exempt under the administrative exception, you need to know that you virtually have no rights under the Fair Labor Standards Act, and that you are also exempt from receiving overtime pay. Sometimes an employer will do this intentionally, but even if it is an accidental misclassification, you still have the right to receive back pay for overtime hours you have worked.

Regardless if you have tracked your overtime hours, you still have protection and can make a wage dispute claim for back pay. There are restrictions limiting how far back in time you can make a claim, so it is important to work with a wage dispute attorney as soon as possible to ensure you reclaim as much of your earnings as you can.

If any of this sounds familiar to you, then contact the wage dispute firm of Dunham & Jones right away. It is important to speak with an overtime attorney if you feel you have a case for a wage dispute. Many clients have come to us thinking they did not have a wage dispute, and were surprised to find out they were owed thousands of dollars by their employer. An evaluation of your case is free and confidential. Call now or fill out the contact form to speak with one of our overtime lawyers.

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Are Accountants entitled to overtime pay?

The answer is that it depends. If by “accountant” one means a Certified Public Accountant (“CPA”), then the answer is probably “no” as CPA’s would be considered to be exempt under the learned professional exemption (see the test below).

However, accounting clerks, bookkeepers, and employees handling things such as accounts payable and accounts receivable that perform large amounts of routine tasks are probably entitled to overtime. As a result, an employee who simply records and tabulates data is not exempt, even if they are labeled as an “accountant.” If you have a question about whether you are entitled to overtime, please contact us at 1-800-344-4444.

The learned professional exemption requires that:

  1. The employee performs work requiring advance knowledge;
  2. The advanced knowledge must be in a field or science or learning; and
  3. The advanced knowledge must be customarily acquired by a prolonged course of specialized intellectual instruction.

Included in the above requirements is that the employee’s primary duty include the consistent exercise of discretion and independent judgment. Thus, if an employee’s primary duty does not involve the consistent exercise of discretion and independent judgment, but consists of following a pre-set routine or a standard set of guidelines or procedures with little to no authority to deviate from these guidelines or procedures, you may qualify for overtime.

Finally, for an employee to qualify for the learned professional exemption, he or she generally must be paid on a salary basis at a rate not less than $455 per week. If the employee is paid on an hourly basis, or if the employer docks the employee’s salary for missing work, the employer very well may have “blown” the exemption, entitling the employee to overtime.

You should not make assumptions when trying to determine if you are entitled to overtime. Just because your title may appear to disqualify you from overtime, the key is to focus on what your actual job duties are. Your title is not determinative. Because there is confusion even among attorneys sometimes as to whether someone is considered exempt or not, the best course of action is to call us for a free evaluation and let us apply our knowledge and expertise dealing with overtime issues so that we can give you an honest appraisal of whether or not you may qualify for overtime.

I am a bookkeeper and sometimes I work long hours to meet deadlines. My boss doesn’t pay me extra for overtime because he says I am exempt under the administrative exemption. Is this legal?

Many bookkeepers resort to working overtime over holiday or vacation seasons and often this results in them working more than 40 hours a week. Bookkeepers’ main duties may include financial record-keeping, posting debit and credits, preparing reports, handling payroll, tracking overdue accounts, ensuring accuracy of account data or working with clients.

The Fair Labor Standards Act has an administrative exemption, and if you meet the requirements, you are exempt from receiving overtime pay. Many bookkeepers pass the “salary test” of the administrative exemption, which dictates that employees must be compensated no less that $455 per week. The “duties test” of the administrative exemption requires that your main duties involve non-manual or office work directly related to the management of the business, but also that you can use the exercise of discretion and independent judgement in significant matters.

While most bookkeepers meet the first part of the exemption, they often do not fulfill the second half. Bookkeepers adhere to company or federal policy in their work. The independent discretion described by the FLSA is not a primary duty of most bookkeepers, and this is why most bookkeepers are considered non-exempt employees. One of the ways the FLSA describes independent judgment and discretion is that the employee has the authority to waive established policies without prior approval, or that the employee can implement operating practices.

But many employers continue to inaccurately misclassify their bookkeepers as exempt, and this prevents bookkeepers and clerks from receiving premium pay for overtime. If you are exempt, then you will be paid the same rate, regardless of how many hours you work. This is not affected by whether you are paid with salary or by the hour. Overtime can be calculated regardless of how you are paid. Overtime pay is time-and-a-half, and exempt employees do not receive this premium pay for work they have done over 40 hours a week.

Many companies have not reviewed their employees’ status for a while, and some employers intentionally misclassify workers as exempt to save more money. Whether you have been intentionally or accidentally misclassified does not change your rights to make a claim for past unpaid wages. You can recover unpaid wages as long ago as two, and sometimes even three, years ago. Even if you have not kept records of your hours, you can still make a claim.

Wage dispute claims are inherently complicated. If you believe you may have a claim, call our offices to meet with one of our hour and wage attorneys. The initial evaluation is free and confidential. Many clients have come to us believing they did not have a claim, and discovered they were owed thousands of dollars by their employer. There are deadlines to meet when making a wage claim, so call our offices or fill out a contact form as soon as possible.