You’ve recently been promoted to a position as an HR generalist, and you’re anxious to get down to work. One day, a manger that you haven’t worked with before comes to you to talk about a problem he’s having with one of his direct reports. This employee happens to be an executive assistant, and he is a highly trusted and valued member of the department. He handles confidential information and is always looking to grow and learn. The employee feels, however, that he has been “held back” because he’s classified as non-exempt and therefore can’t join in with the team on special projects that require overtime or weekend work (there is no money in the budget for overtime hours). This employee ends up feeling excluded and less important. The manager wants you to help him find a way to reclassify the position as exempt. Which of the following responses would be the least appropriate?
  1. The manager should help the employee understand that he is truly a valued manager of the team.
  2. Based on the information the manager has given you, the position should be upgraded, but the title would have to be changed.
  3. The position should be evaluated to see how it changed since the last review and whether it should be upgraded.
  4. The manager should have a conversation with the employee about his career objectives.
Answer - B - First, reclassifying a position from “non-exempt” to “exempt” is a decision that must be made after much analysis. It is a decision that should be grounded in actual job responsibilities, not on the basis of a particular incumbent and their feelings.

Key Takeaway: Also, FLSA status is determined on the basis of the responsibilities that are performed, not on the basis of job title. Lastly, it is best to refer to this process as “reclassifying,” not “upgrading,” in that the word “upgrading” seems to reinforce the fallacy that it is better or more desirable to be exempt than it is to be non-exempt. Option A is not the best response because it is appropriate for a manger to help the employee understand how he contributes to, and is valued by, the team. It is possible that the position might have changed enough to warrant a reclassification, and a job evaluation would provide information that is necessary for making that assessment. This situation is also an appropriate opportunity for a manager to have a discussion with the employee about his career objectives.
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