Growth Of Tech In Texas May Increase Use Of FLSA Computer Exemption
January 4th, 2019 by David Minces
Apple, the company that makes the iPhone, the iPad, and the Mac computer, has announced plans to build a campus in Austin, Texas. The new campus will eventually employ 15,000 people in addition to the 7,000 Austinites that already work for the tech company. This may make Apple the biggest employer in the Austin area. Apple’s hiring goals put the company on track to beat Dell and H-E-B, which have historically been the state capital’s top private employers.
Apple is not the first tech company to have a major office in Austin. Dell, AMD, Microsoft, and other tech companies have already flocked to Austin, which has been dubbed “Silicon Hills” by the tech industry, for a variety of reasons. Taxes, costs of living, and business regulations in Texas are all lower than in California. Austin also hosts South by Southwest, Austin City Limits, and other events, making the city a hip cultural hub. With the University of Texas, Austin has plenty of qualified engineers and computer scientists to choose from.
The influx in tech jobs to the Austin area has the potential to alter the job market in favor of employees. Local employers, especially tech companies, will likely begin to offer higher wages, more benefits, and stronger protections in order to compete against Apple for the best talent. Existing companies may try to model Apple’s culture, which is renown for rewarding high achievers, encouraging creativity, and promoting diversity. If these policies are successful, the city or county government may be encouraged to enact new employment laws modeled after the practices.
However, the overwhelming presence of tech companies may cause an increased likelihood of employers incorrectly following FLSA exemptions for employees in computer-related occupations. This (currently) rarely-litigated exemption allows certain “computer employees” who earn a salary more than $455 per week to be exempt from overtime pay. To qualify, employees must meet certain standards. The full requirements from the Department of Labor read as follows:
- The employee must be compensated either on a salary or fee basis at a rate not less than $455 per week or, if compensated on an hourly basis, at a rate not less than $27.63 an hour;
- The employee must be employed as a computer systems analyst, computer programmer, software engineer or other similarly skilled worker in the computer field performing the duties described below;
- The employee’s primary duty must consist of:
- The application of systems analysis techniques and procedures, including consulting with users, to determine hardware, software or system functional specifications;
- The design, development, documentation, analysis, creation, testing or modification of computer systems or programs, including prototypes, based on and related to user or system design specifications;
- The design, documentation, testing, creation or modification of computer programs related to machine operating systems; or
- A combination of the aforementioned duties, the performance of which requires the same level of skills.
In essence, exempt employees are employees that make a certain guaranteed wage and perform relatively-high level work related to computers. The legal definition for high level can be confusing for employers, though. Lack of clarity may cause employers to misclassify their employees, which can mean lost wages for employees and expensive legal bills for employers.
The new jobs created by the influx of tech in Texas will likely change the interpretation of employment laws within our courts. For employees new and old, Minces PLLC is committed to helping you navigate the ambiguities of the legal system. If you are an employer, we can help you determine that you are well within the limits of the lawl. If you are an employee, we would be glad to assist you in recovering what is rightfully yours if your employer is shortchanging you. Minces PLLC uses decades of combined experience in employment law to obtain justice for our clients. Follow us on Facebook or LinkedIn to keep up with employment law updates.
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