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Business and Policy Areas
Business and Policy Areas

Department of Labor Issues FLSA Opinion Letters

January 23, 2007

At the end of 2006, the Department of Labor issued several opinion letters on the classifications under the Fair Labor Standards Act of information technology (IT) support specialists, instructors at a career school, and non-exempt support staff in coaching roles. An opinion letter is signed by the administrator of the Wage and Hour Division and is an official ruling or interpretation of how the Fair Labor Standards Act applies to a particular set of circumstances.

IT Support Specialist
An opinion letter issued by the Department of Labor on October 26, 2006, states that IT support specialists are not exempt employees under either the administrative or computer employee exemptions outlined in the Fair Labor Standards Act overtime requirements. The DOL determined that the primary duties of analyzing, troubleshooting, and resolving problems with an employer's computer applications, networks, and hardware do not satisfy the administrative exemption requirements of exercising “discretion and independent judgment.”  Furthermore, the computer support specialists do not meet the requirements of the computer employee exemption, since they are not primarily engaged in programming, systems analysis, or similarly skilled functions.

Career instructors and the teacher exemption
Another opinion letter issued on October 26, 2006, found that instructors at a career school qualify as exempt employees under the teacher exemption. The career school qualified as an educational establishment because it was accredited by a nationally recognized accrediting organization for career schools. And, although the instructors do not possess teaching certificates from the state, they are certified and meet state requirements in terms of years of experience for teachers in a vocational school. The primary duty of the instructors is teaching and imparting knowledge “using their own methods of organizing, communication, and delivering course materials.” Therefore, the instructors qualify for the teaching exemption of the FLSA.

School employees performing additional work
Finally, DOL commented on the use of non-exempt school system staff to assist with coaching sports or other extracurricular activities, either as volunteer or as additional duties. Although the opinion letter focuses on a scenario presented by a school district, some guidance may be relevant to higher education institutions. The letter encourages review of supporting documents from the Wage and Hour Division in determining whether a bona fide  volunteer relationship exists.