AT&T is the latest major corporation to get hit with overtime class action litigation. In this case, the communications giant got hit from two sides.
One billion-dollar suit recently filed in Georgia, alleges that former managers of BellSouth Corporation became employees of AT&T when it merged with BellSouth in 2006 were misclassified as exempt even though their primary duties are non-managerial.
The lesson for employers, big and small, cannot be stated enough: The fact that an employee’s job title is “manager” has no bearing on whether the employee is exempt or not. Primary duties are what matter, and in particular whether those primary duties meet the specific exemption criteria.
A separate suit filed in California claims that AT & T misclassified its technical support workers – the ones who, according to their attorney, “keep the technology infrastructure up and running” through hardware and software installation, maintenance or support work.
This suit illuminates the importance of properly applying the so-called computer professional exemption. Meeting that exemption generally requires more than doing basic technical computer-related work as this suit alleges these employees were doing. Employees must satisfy all of the following criteria to qualify as exempt computer professionals:
• Earn a salary of at least $455 per week or a wage of $27.63 or more per hour
• Be a skilled worker, such as a computer systems analyst, computer programmer or software engineer
• Be primarily responsible for systems analysis, computer design, support of computer programs related to machine operating systems, or skills related to the foregoing or a combination of these skills
Employees who are primarily doing tech support likely would not meet this exemption and should be paid overtime.