Network administrator fell “squarely within” exemption

A network administrator fell “squarely within” the computer employee exemption, despite the contention that the tasks he performed could have been satisfied by “half the twentysomethings in America today,” held a federal district court in Florida, granting summary judgment for his employer on his FLSA unpaid overtime claim. Despite his attorney’s ”creative” characterization of his job responsibilities, it was clear from the record that he came within the exemption for employees in computer occupations.

Enacted in 1996, the computer employee exemption made it easier for employers to exempt employees in computer occupations by, among other things, dispensing with any reference to educational prerequisites and eliminating the requirement that the employee’s job duties involve the exercise of independent judgment and discretion. Because in this case the salary requirement was not at issue, the company could defeat the employee’s unpaid overtime claim simply by showing that his primary duty was the performance of exempt work.

“Half the twentysomethings in America today”

The employee denied that he performed primarily exempt work. Despite what his job title of “IT Manager” and/or “Network Administrator/Engineer II” might indicate, his primary work put him outside of the computer employee exemption, he alleged.

Most of his job duties, he said, revolved around basic network administration. For instance, he installed software, ran commercial anti-virus software “anyone could run,” took questions from employees who could not figure out how to install their printers or use Microsoft Office, and “looked stuff up in a database.”

He also did menial tasks, he asserted, like make copies of hard drives, handle the Windows Exchange Server for email (which just meant he installed particular software and opened an account, he said), and assign logins for people to use their computers—tasks his attorney described as things “half the twentysomethings in America today” could do.

Attorney’s “creative descriptions” disbelieved

But the court gave no credence to this characterization of his duties. According to the record, the court found, the employee’s duties consisted of analyzing, troubleshooting, and testing the company’s systems networks; developing a back-up test database; and performing other technical computer tasks. As he admitted in his deposition, he was in charge of “everything with the network.” Thus, despite his attorney’s “creative descriptions” of his job duties, the employee could not “escape from” application of the computer employee exemption.

Boundaries of the exemption

Under DOL regulations, the court noted, the exemption for employees in computer occupations does not include employees engaged in the “repair of computer hardware and related equipment” or employees whose work is “highly dependent upon, or facilitated by, the use of computers and computer software programs (e.g., engineers, drafters and others skilled in computer-aided design software), but who are not primarily engaged in computer systems analysis or other similarly skilled computer-related occupations.” Here, the court indicated, the employee was not in either of these categories. (Ortega v. Bel Fuse, Inc., SDFla., 166 LC ¶36,434).)

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