Blue Collar Exemptions to the FLSA

The federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) requires employers to pay minimum wage of at least $7.25 an hour, plus time and a half to any employee who works more than 40 hours in a week.  But not all employees are covered by the FLSA, and there are several statutory exemptions. The most common exemptions are the white collar exemptionsexecutive, administrative, and professional – which mostly apply to office workers. However, there are also several “blue collar” exemptions covering employees who perform certain types of manual work. Many employers and workers are unaware that these exemptions even exist, but they can be quite significant within those particular industries.

The upcoming series of articles will discuss the blue collar exemptions that are the most common in Louisiana. They include the following types of exempt positions:

  1. The Seaman Exemption, which applies to sailors aboard maritime vessels
  2. The Motor Carrier Exemption, which applies to truck drivers, mechanics, and loaders
  3. The Fisherman Exemption, which applies to workers who catch, harvest, or farm fish and other marine life
  4. The Agricultural Exemption, which applies to farmworkers 
  5. The Taxicab Exemption, which applies to cab drivers, and
  6. The Cotton and Sugarcane Exemption, which applies to workers who process cotton or sugarcane crops

Each of these exemptions is defined by specific regulatory language, and the legal definitions of these terms often differs from their everyday meaning. For example, employers should not assume that everyone who works as a “truck driver” is overtime exempt – in fact, many people who drive trucks are not exempt and must be paid overtime. The exemption is only available for drivers of certain types of trucks, driving certain types of routes.  To make things even more confusing, it applies to some individuals who do not drive trucks at all.  In short, the mere title of the exemption does not tell the whole story, and any employer must carefully consider the requirements of the FLSA regulations and honestly asses the worker’s actual job duties before declaring an employee exempt.

If there is any uncertainty about whether an exemption applies to a particular employee, it always makes sense to consult with an experienced employment attorney. The penalties under the FLSA for misclassifying a worker as overtime exempt can be severe, so it is critical to get it right at the outset rather than face an expensive lawsuit later.  

If you have any questions about the blue collar exemptions listed above, or the FLSA and wage and hour law in general, call me today at (504) 267-0777 or email Charles Stiegler today.