Primary Duty

What does Primary Duty mean?

The United States Department of Labor defines primary duty as the major, main, and principal component or duty of a specific employee. Information pertaining to an employee’s primary duty is used to determine if the employee is exempt or non-exempt for overtime pay.

Workers who are nonexempt must be paid at least the federal minimum wage and must be paid overtime for hours worked in excess of forty hours. Overtime pay equals one-half the regular rate of pay for all hours worked over 40 hours in a workweek.

The Federal Labor Standards Act or FLSA provides exemptions for certain workers from overtime and minimum wage laws, assuming the worker is employed as bona fide executive, an administrator, a professional, or an outside sales employee.

Keep in mind, however, having a specific job title is not enough to determine an employee’s over time exemption status. To do this an employer must identify a worker’s primary job duties. These duties, as well as other requirements, must also be met for the employee to be considered exempt.

For example, an employer may determine specific employees qualify for an administrative exemption and do not have to be paid overtime if they can prove the following: the employee receives at least $455 per week; the employee’s primary duty allows for discretion and independent judgment with regards to significant matters, and the employee’s primary duty is to perform non-manual work associated with the general business operation or management of the company.

Determining Primary Job Duties

There are several strategies for determining the primary duties of a job. The first place to start is to determine what functions are essential to the completion of the job. Specifically, what tasks cannot be eliminated with severely impacting the nature of the job. Necessary job duties can be determined by asking the following questions:

  • What are the primary responsibilities of the job?
  • Are there any duties which are critical to the completion of the job?
  • What duties could not be eliminated without compromising the performance of the job?
  • How much time is spent on each duty?

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