Changes in technology and technology-related jobs occur at warp-speed; the law, however, moves slowly. For this reason, regulations regarding exempt status of workers are sometimes drafted with broad language to capture future changes in duties and positions not in existence at the time the regulations are implemented. Regulations regarding the exempt status of computer professional employees are one example. The regulations were implemented early in the information technology age in 1990 (before google, facebook, and even regular use of e-mails by businesses). These have not been revisited in recent years to address the explosion in this sector of the economy and the many varying technical jobs it entails. However, a new decision applying the computer professional exemption under the FLSA, does so with respect to a position not widespread at the time the regulations were drafted, but covered by the language of the regulation. Curry v. Matividad Med. Ctr., 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 74761 (N.D. Cal. May 28, 2013).
In Curry, plaintiff worked for defendant Matividad Medical Center, a county-operated health care facility, and, following a promotion, came to be classified as an exempt employee earning a salary in excess of $80,000/year. He brought suit alleging he was misclassified as exempt, asserting that his primary duty was merely “working on computer and server repair and functionality problems for individual employees,” a type of trouble-shooting the Plaintiff argued DOL classifies as non-exempt computer-related work. In analyzing the record, however, the Court determined the Plaintiff was more than a low-level trouble-shooter, and instead, performed “network analysis, testing, configuration, and modification” and thus “was a skilled employee as described under the computer employee exemption.”
Given the changes in technology-related jobs and the lack of specific guidance from the DOL to cover all these specific jobs, the computer professional exemption can be tricky to apply and employers must analyze the duties and pronouncements from the DOL.