The scope of the computer professional exemption, enacted prior to the widespread use of the Internet and before the existence of some of the most well-known tech companies (e.g., it was enacted prior to the existence of Google), is often a source of litigation, as employers and the courts attempt to apply the exemption to hundreds of jobs that did not exist when the exemption was created. The exemption applies to those working as a computer systems analyst, computer programmer, or software engineer, but was written broadly to include as well, any “similarly skilled worker,” likely anticipating new positions would emerge as technology rapidly changed. . A new decision, applying the exemption, upholds application of the exemption to a lead technician for a commercial installer of voice and data systems. Haluska v. Advent Communs., Inc., 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 158467 (W.D. Pa. Nov. 10, 2014).
While the plaintiff attempted to characterize his job as a “simplistic form of data entry,” Judge Terrence F. McVerry ruled that “by his own admission, plaintiff’s primary job duties included consulting with customers at precut meetings to discuss and determine hardware specifications and systems functions as well as programming/modifying the related software to meet their needs,” and that even if he was not a computer programmer he was a “similarly skilled worker” and the exemption applied.
Evolution in the information technology sector has outpaced the evolution of the applicable Department of Labor guidance on computer professionals. Practical assessment such as that found in Haluska, is necessary to preserve the purpose of exempt status, namely to permit exclusion from overtime for highly skilled, well-compensated workers.