To qualify for the administrative exemption from overtime compensation requirement an employee must be primarily engaged in a work of a type that is “directly related to management polices or general business operations.” This requirement of course must be interpreted as it is inherently vague. In one sense, every type of work directly relates to management policy because every employee does work that carries out, or is governed by, management policy. But for obvious reasons, such an interpretation wouldn’t make sense, as it would make virtually all employee exempt from overtime.
In Harris v. Liberty Mutual Insurance Co. (2007), the court clarified that the work is “directly related to management policies or general business operations” for the purposes of determining whether administrative exemption applies only if it “relates to the administrative operations of a business as distinguished from ‘production’ or in a retail or service establishment ‘sales” work.” This means, the court continued, that only work performed at the level of policy or general operations can qualify as “directly related to management policies or general business operations.” On the other hand, work that merely carries out the particular, day-to-day operations of the business is production and not administrative work, and thus doesn’t qualify for administrative overtime exemption.
The Harris court, applying this analysis, found that insurance adjusters, who sued the defendant for unpaid overtime, were primarily engaged in “production” – adjusting individual claims for their employer. They investigate claims, make coverage determination, set reserves, negotiate settlements, make settlement recommendations for claims beyond their settlement authority, identify potential fraud, and so forth. Noe of that work was found to be carried out at the level of management policy or general operations. Rather, it is all part of the day-to-day operation of defendants’ business.