The federal overtime law, called the Fair Labor Standards Act, exempts employers from paying overtime wages to workers who are classified as “executive,” “administrative” or “professional” employees. These exemptions are colloquially called “white collar” exemptions. State overtime laws often have similar “white collar” exemptions.
Applying these exemptions is far more nuanced than their moniker suggests. There are complex, multi-pronged legal tests for each of the “white collar” exemptions. Determining whether your employer is properly classifying you as exempt can be a tricky endeavor, and if you have questions about your exemption status, you should consider contacting an employment lawyer.
But federal regulations have one easy rule of thumb: if your employer pays you less than $684 per week, your employer cannot classify you as a “white collar” worker. The Federal Department of Labor has explained, “employees paid less than the [$684] salary level are unlikely to be bona fide executive, administrative, or professional employees, and, conversely,  nearly all bona fide executive, administrative, and professional employees are paid at least that much.”
In addition to this federal salary threshold, various states have their own salary tests and have higher minimum salaries than the federal Department of Labor. For example, under New York law, employers in most of the state cannot take advantage of the executive or administrative exemptions unless they pay their workers at least $885.00 per week. In New York City, the threshold is $1,125.00 per week.
Washington State will soon also eclipse the federal salary threshold for “white collar” workers. Starting January 1, 2021, employers cannot take advantage of the “white collar” exemptions unless they pay their workers at least $827 per week. The state will gradually increase that salary threshold each year for the next seven years. By January 1, 2028, the threshold will be $1,603 per week.
In sum, if your employer denies you overtime wages and you make less than the above-described salary thresholds, you may have a wage theft case against your employer. But before acting, consider contacting an employment lawyer to talk about your options.
Remember, even if your employer considers you a “white collar” worker, you may still be entitled to overtime wages.