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November 16, 2010
Overtime Exemption Audits: How to Collect Data

Once an employer has decided to conduct an overtime exemption analysis of the various jobs within the organization, they face several decisions. The first decision is to determine what method of data gathering makes the most sense for their purposes. In a BLR webinar titled "Advanced Exemption Audits: Evaluate Your Overtime Classifications Now To Avoid Costly Trouble Later," Mary Topliff, Esq., outlined some of the data collection alternatives. These range from the most to the least intensive:

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  • Review job titles
  • Review job descriptions
  • Ask employees to complete questionnaires
  • Conduct one-on-one interviews
  • Observe the job functions personally

Only reviewing job titles is the least accurate method. Reviewing job descriptions improves on the process, but it is incomplete because actual job duties can vary significantly from the job description. Additionally, the level of skill required is not apparent in the job description.

The next best option is to put together a questionnaire, and ensure it is very detailed. Ensure to determine how the job fits into the bigger picture. Employers should also ensure that the correct person fills out the questionnaire, which is not always the employee. In fact, it is often the manager over the role. Questionnaires may not be complete enough if there is pending litigation on this issue.

Interviews and observations may be required if there are legal proceedings already ongoing. These allow you to get the most specific information about what the employee is actually doing on a day-to-day basis. However, this is typically the most expensive method to use, even if you use internal resources to complete the interviews and observations. This method also raises employee suspicions, which is another negative aspect.

Mary Topliff, Esq. founded the Law Offices of Mary L. Topliff in San Francisco in 1997, after practicing civil and employment litigation for nine years. ( The firm specializes in employment law counseling, training, and compliance, focusing on practical solutions to avoid costly legal issues. She has advised many organizations regarding overtime exemption analyses and strategies for minimizing the risk. Topliff is a published author and frequent speaker on legal issues impacting the workplace.

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