What should someone expect when being an exempt employee for the first time in the US? At first it sounded great (better pay, flexibility), but after doing a bit of research it sounds like exempt employees have almost no rights compared to non-exempt employees. Some of the things that worry me are:

  • No overtime (nothing stops employers from asking for 60-70 hours a week)
  • Are allowed to make you buy company equipment as long as you still make min wage
  • Require you to travel out of state without reimbursing gas or plane tickets
  • Always on call

So what should I expect before getting an exempt job? Are any of these fears reality or is it usually just like working as a non-exempt? I'm aware that you "work until the job is done", but at previous jobs, the job is technically never done.

  • I've never had an employer ask for any of those (except one place that offered me a job but made clear their 60-hour-weeks expectation during the process; that was most of the reason I turned them down). I'm pretty sure 2 and 3 are actually illegal, and only certain types of jobs will require 4. – Kevin Jul 18 '17 at 19:23
  • Just because the law doesn't necessarily offer a given protection doesn't mean that a company will choose to take advantage of that. I've had exempt jobs where I had overtime (it was straight time, but you were paid for the time you worked), I've never had to buy my own equipment, I've always been reimbursed for travel expenses, and when I've been on call it's been on rotation or planned in advance. If you have specific concerns about any of these, it's the kind of thing you should talk to each company about. – Thomas Owens Jul 18 '17 at 19:26

What you are describing is the worst case scenario this has been my experience.

  • During emergencies and "crunch times" you may work long hours
  • Most times, your hours are flexible and small absences are excused (leaving early, long lunches, et cetera)
  • Slow times generally mean free time
  • Everything is negotiated on a more personal level. I.E. you can arrange different times with your manager, coverage with your coworkers.
  • FAR less attention to the clock.
  • A considerably greater amount of give and take. Most of the time, the 80 hour weeks are compensated by a good deal of looking the other way when you need time off. unofficial "comp time" and other experiences.
  • You need to be your own advocate. No unions anymore. Learn to speak up for yourself.
  • Your pay is not dependent on negotiated rates. You can push for a raise yourself. (see previous point)
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No overtime (nothing stops employers from asking for 60-70 hours a week)

Absolutely correct. This can and does happen at many companies. You have to research the specific company culture (look for "work-life balance" on Glassdoor), and can vary within companies as well. Note that if you make less than $47,476 you still must be paid overtime.

Are allowed to make you buy company equipment as long as you still make min wage

Require you to travel out of state without reimbursing gas or plane tickets

These may be legal but are not at all a common practice. It's much more common that reimbursements are a net benefit to the worker: you can get credit card rewards for business expenses you get repaid in full for, and your company may provide a car, computer, or phone that can be used for personal activities outside of work hours.

Always on call

This is in somewhat common practice depending on the job. Most workers are at the office during business hours so the issue doesn't come up except during vacations. I would say this a non-issue for most workers but a huge problem for a small subset who cannot adequately separate their home life from their work life.

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  • Trump administration rolled back the $47k wage back to $25k. – Bill Leeper Jul 18 '17 at 20:57

I currently work an in an exempt position. Much like you, the idea was really off putting and at times I wondered if it was worth it. So far I'm 6 months in and usually average 45 to 55 hours a week. Of course there have been times when I've pulled 80 hours a week, but this is usually when things go wrong here. I can't speak for you experience, but in my small IT environment my manager is more interested in my time management and project progress. If I am required to work longer to meet a deadline then I do. If not then it's 8 hours a day for me. I pretty much use my 8 hour work day to be as productive as I can be, then there is no reason for anyone to ask me to stay late unless something is wrong.

I average 50 hours a week because I come in an hour early before anyone gets into the office and the distractions start pouring in.This give me a solid hour of uninterrupted coding which can go a long way to keeping me within reach of my deadlines. Add to that, I cut 30 minutes from my lunch because I don't know what to do with an hour for lunch, and I don't really Which doesn't bother me. Again, I can't speak for your situation but in my experience it's not as scary as some stories claim that it is. It will be a matter of learning how to manage your time at work so you don't have to stay late. You'll have to judge your environment for yourself and make the call.

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