DOL Says: Information Technology (IT) Support Specialist Should Be Non-exempt

January 26, 2007

On October 26, 2006, the U.S. Department of Labor issued an opinion letter regarding whether an Information (IT) Support Specialist qualified for exemption under the Fair Labor Standards Act. It found the position did not qualify.
The Duties of the Position: The employer had described the duties of the position as follows:

55% – Analyzes, troubleshoots, and resolves complex problems with business applications, networking, and hardware.
20% – Installs, configures, and tests upgraded and new business computers and applications based upon user-defined requirements. Assists users in identifying hardware/software needs and provides advice regarding current options, policies, and procedures.
10% – Participates in the design, testing, and deployment of client configurations throughout the organization. Leverages application packaging software technology for deployment of business applications to client systems.
5% – Participates in the analysis and selection of new technology required for expanding computing needs throughout the organization. Works with competing vendors to determine the best selection based on price, technical functionality, durability, manufacturer support, manufacturer vision, and position in the healthcare industry.
5% – Documents technical processes and troubleshooting guidelines. Documents end-user frequently asked questions about computer systems or programs and publishes on Intranet as guidelines for the entire organization.
5% – Monitors automated alerts generated by systems management tools and makes decisions on the most effective resolution.

The IT position required only a high school diploma or GED, although an associates degree was preferred.
The DOL’s Opinion: The Department of Labor reviewed whether the position would fall under the “administrative” exemption or the “computer employee” exemption. With respect to the administrative exemption, the Department found that because the primary duty of the IT Support Specialist consisted of installing, configuring, testing, and troubleshooting computer applications, networks and hardware, that these duties were examples of work that lacked the requisite exercise of discretion and independent judgment within the meaning of the administrative exemption. Although the Department recognized that “minor aspects” of the position included participating in the design of client configurations and analyzing and selecting new technology, this was not the primary duty of the position and thus insufficient to qualify the position as exempt.
With respect to the computer employee exemption, the Department noted individuals qualifying for this exemption generally include “computer systems analysts, computer programmers, software engineers and other similarly skilled workers in the computer field.” The Department observed that because the primary duty of the IT Support Specialist position in question consisted of installing, configuring, testing, and troubleshooting computer applications, the primary duty of the employee did not involve the application of systems analysis techniques and procedures. Accordingly, the Department found that the IT Support Specialist position would not be exempt under the computer employee exemption.
What Wisconsin Employers Need To Know: Wisconsin employers should review their IT support positions to ensure those employees whose primary duties consist of analyzing and troubleshooting business applications, networking and hardware installing, configuring, or testing computers and applications are classified as non-exempt.
This opinion letter and previous court cases provide some guidance in the area of computer employee exemption and its application to IT positions. Of course, whether or not a particular employee is exempt or non-exempt requires thorough analysis of the actual job duties and must be done on a case-by-case basis.
If you have questions regarding the above, please contact Sara Ackermann, the author of this article, or any of the attorneys in the Employment, Benefits & Labor Relations Practice Group of Ruder Ware.

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