When is a Sales Employee Exempt from Overtime?

The Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”) is a Federal law that requires employees be paid overtime for all hours worked in excess of 40 in a workweek. Certain sales employees may be exempt from the overtime provisions of the FLSA if they are subject to the “outside sales exemption”[1] or the “retail service establishment exemption.”[2] If you believe you may be misclassified as an overtime exempt, salaried employee, we encourage you to Contact Us to meet with an attorney and discuss your situation.

The Outside Sales Exemption

The overtime requirements of the FLSA do not apply to, “. . . any employee employed . . . in the capacity of outside salesman. . . .”[3] In order to be considered employed “in the capacity of outside salesman” an employee must satisfy ALL of the following conditions:

  1. The employee’s primary duty must be making sales or obtaining orders or contracts for services or for the use of facilities for which a consideration will be paid by the client or customer;[4] and
  2. the employee must be customarily and regularly engaged away from the employer’s place or places of business in performing such primary duty.[5]
What Does “Primary Duty” Mean?

A task performed by an employee is considered that employee’s “primary duty” for the purposes of exemption from FLSA overtime requirements when it is the, “. . . principal, main, major or most important duty that the employee performs.”[6] As a general rule, if more than 50% of the hours worked by an employee in any given workweek are spent performing exempt, outside salesperson tasks, then that employee will be considered overtime exempt.[7]

Where is the Employer’s “Place of Business?”

Outside sales means the process of soliciting at the customer’s place of business or, if selling door-to-door, at the customer’s home. Outside sales excludes sales made by mail, telephone, or the internet. Any fixed site, whether home or office, used by a salesperson as a headquarters or for telephonic solicitation of sales is considered one of the employer’s places of business, regardless of whether the employer actually owns or rents the property.[8] So even a salesperson that has never been to the employer’s brick and mortar location, but makes telephonic sales entirely from their home, would not be considered an outside salesperson under the FLSA.

Is There a Minimum Salary Requirement for Exempt Outside Salespersons?

Of note, the minimum salary requirements that apply to professional, executive, and administrative employees who are exempt from overtime under the FLSA, discussed at When is a Non-Sales Employee Exempt from Overtime?, do not apply to outside salespersons.[9] There is no minimum salary required to be classified as an exempt outside salesperson, so long as all of the other requirements are met.

The Retail Service Establishment Exemption

The FLSA provides for an exemption from its overtime requirements for inside salespersons who meet certain requirements. In order for an inside salesperson to be considered overtime exempt under the FLSA, the employee must be employed by a retail or service establishment; AND must be paid (when computed on an hourly basis) more than one and one-half times the applicable minimum wage; AND more than 50% of the employee’s total compensation in a given month must consist of commission payments.[10] Tips are not considered commission payments for the purposes of this exemption, only bona fide commission payments will qualify.

For the purposes of the FLSA, a retail or service establishment is defined as, “. . . an establishment 75 per centum of whose annual dollar volume of sales of goods or services (or of both) is not for resale and is recognized as retail sales or services in the particular industry.”[11]

The protections of the FLSA are designed to ensure that you receive the full value of the work you perform on behalf of your employer. Determining whether you are subject to one of the exemptions to FLSA overtime requirements requires careful, individualized inquiry. If you believe you may be misclassified as an overtime exempt, salaried employee, we encourage you to Contact Us to meet with an attorney and discuss your situation.

[1] 29 U.S.C. § 213(a)(1).
[2] 29 U.S.C. § 207(i).
[3] Fn. 1, supra.
[4] 29 C.F.R. § 541.500(a)(1).
[5] 29 C.F.R. § 541.500(a)(2).
[6] 29 C.F.R. § 541.700(a).
[7] 29 C.F.R. § 541.700(b).
[8] 29 C.F.R. § 541.502.
[9] 29 C.F.R. § 541.500(c).
[10] Fn. 2, supra.
[11] 29 C.F.R. § 779.411; 29 C.F.R. § 779.24 .

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